What Crimes Can Be Expunged in Minnesota?

If you were previously charged or convicted of a criminal offense, one of the questions you may ask is: what crimes can be expunged? In Minneapolis, and throughout Minnesota, title fraud, violating various insurance regulations, and fifth-degree sale or possession of a controlled substance are among the crimes that qualify for the expungement process. 

It takes one to five years to expunge a criminal record. The expunged records will not appear on standard background checks, as an expungement helps seal criminal records. However, law enforcement officers can access them when investigating you for another criminal offense. 

Understanding Criminal Record Expungement

The word ‘expunge’ means having something removed or erased. In criminal cases, an expungement order helps remove or erase criminal conviction records from public records. It mandates the court to treat a conviction like it never happened. 

When convicted of a criminal offense, the court will have your criminal record. The record usually consists of your past convictions. In Minnesota, arrest records are part of a criminal record. However, you can have the record expunged.

Petty misdemeanor, traffic, and criminal cases fall under Minnesota’s judicial branch. As such, your driving records will form part of your criminal records, regardless of the nature of the traffic offense.

If you are experiencing difficulties trying to qualify for favorable auto insurance premiums or get a commercial driver’s license, your criminal record might be the cause. It is likely because of a traffic offense added to your driving record. Contacting the Driver and Vehicle Services arm of the Public Safety Department can help you determine the cause of this problem.

Banks and federal agencies may prevent you from accessing student or home loans, and courts may give you harsher sentences if you have a criminal record. A previous conviction can prevent you from getting a job or gaining child custody rights. It may also interfere with the naturalization process when trying to gain citizenship, or a green card application. 

Expungement vs. Pardon

Expungement focuses on sealing the criminal records of offenders who have served their sentences successfully. A pardon, on the other hand, focuses on forgiving an offender for committing a crime. Criminal records of pardoned offenders remain unsealed. 

State courts handle expungement petitions and proceedings. They operate per the relevant state laws. In particular, most expungement cases in Minnesota revolve around juvenile records and have guidelines for juvenile expungement. 

A pardon, in the context of criminal cases, is a governor-issued executive power meant to forgive offenders convicted of an offense. Your pending punishments or penalties get removed once you receive a pardon. Your criminal record, though, will still appear on standard background checks.

Government Offices That Keep Criminal Records

Many government offices maintain offenders’ criminal records. Courts keep case records of criminal charges. Police departments keep investigation or arrest records.

Prosecutors, including the attorney general and county and city attorney, keep criminal case records. The Minnesota Department of Human Services is among other state agencies with copies of these documents.

Minnesota law requires law enforcement officers to send offenders’ criminal records to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Doing this ensures that information on arrests or convictions is available to the public, unless sealed following an expungement.

Expungement Limitations

An expungement order will not erase a record of your conviction or arrest that might be available on the press, social media, or search engines. State courts do not expunge interviews, social media posts, or news stories about a person’s arrest or conviction. They also have no jurisdiction over arrests conducted by police officers operating outside their purview. 

Minnesota courts have no jurisdiction over expunging driving records. So, you cannot file an expungement petition for a driving record with a local court.

The Minnesota Public Safety Department maintains residents’ driving records. It is usually open to sealing or removing these records upon request. Consult your lawyer before contacting this state agency to have your driving record sealed or erased.

Partial vs. Full Expungement

In a partial expungement, the judge will require the court to seal your criminal records. Government agencies in law enforcement, criminal apprehension, and prosecution agencies can still view, share, and use this information. 

A full expungement applies when a judge orders the court and other government bodies to have the records sealed. This type of order prevents some government agencies from accessing the records.

When to File for Expungement in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minnesota imposes no time limits on filing for expungement. State laws allow judges to review cases for this purpose. As such, a judge may accept or deny your expungement request depending on the circumstance of your case. 

How to Get a Record Expunged

A lawyer can walk you through the steps of filing an expungement petition for the case you want to expunge. You need to file a petition for each case if your case was tried in a different county, even though it began in one county. A case expungement in one county court will not have the same effect on the case in another county court.

The court will require copies of your criminal or juvenile delinquency record. These copies should comprise documentation on cases you want to expunge. Contact the county court administration for copies of your Minnesota juvenile delinquency records. Do the same for each county if you have delinquency records in several county courts.

For adult criminal court records, check the Minnesota Court Records Online portal. You can also get them from a court’s public records terminal or the county court administration.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension maintains criminal history records of different offenders. It acquires them from state law enforcement agencies. Browse their criminal history records online portal for these records.

You will incur zero filing costs when filing an expungement petition for a dismissed criminal case. But if you were convicted, expect to pay a $325 filing fee.

Expungement Hearing 

The law requires you to attend a hearing after your expungement petition. You may not have to appear at the hearing if the court does not mandate you to do so. The court proceeding allows you to state legal reasons for needing an expungement.

Prosecutors and other government agencies interested in your criminal case may want to block your petition before or during the court proceeding. Expect them to send you and the judge a letter stating reasons for wanting to block the petition. 

The objection will not affect the status of your expungement. Rather, the judge is the only government official with the mandate to decide whether your petition is justifiable and should get heard. So, you may benefit from consulting with a lawyer to help determine if you qualify for expungement and guide you through the process of requesting it. 

You can find more details about whether the proceedings will happen on your district court website. Be sure to arrive on time and act courteously during the hearing. Stick to your lawyer’s game plan for handling the expungement petition.

After the expungement hearing, the judge can rule in or against your favor. The judge can grant the expungement request or dismiss the petition altogether. Regardless of the ruling, the court will send you an order, or a ruling in written form.

Minnesota law requires judges to give the order within 90 days from the hearing date. If the order is in your favor, it will take up to another 60 days for the court to seal your record officially.

Crimes That Qualify for the Minnesota Expungement Process

Minnesota legislators passed a law in January 2015 that allows offenders to have convictions for a low-level felony, gross misdemeanor, or misdemeanor expunged. The law applies to arrest records maintained by law enforcement agencies. It also covers records kept by other state agencies. 

Arrest records and convictions for fraudulent offenses like falsifying a title certificate, title fraud, altering a livestock certificate, and promulgating a false landing bill qualify for expungement. The same applies to filing a false public assistance application, passing counterfeit checks, writing a dishonored check exceeding $250, and using a scanner illegally. 

You may file a petition to expunge arrests or convictions for several law violations. These violations include violating gambling regulations, regulated animal control laws, laws governing prize solicitations, and laws that cover precious metal dealers. 

Some theft crimes can get expunged in Minnesota. These offenses include computer theft, movie pirating, mail theft, receiving stolen goods (for metal dealers), bringing stolen goods into the state, and farm or livestock theft. Other crimes whose arrest or conviction records are eligible for sealing include arson, coercion, contempt of court, lottery fraud, cell phone hacking, failing to appear in court, violating voting laws, and criminal property damage. 

How Long Does the Expungement Process in Minnesota Take?

It takes up to one year to have an arrest or conviction expunged if you complete the adjudication stay or diversion program terms. This time limit will also apply if you have not faced any criminal charges after completing an adjudication stay or diversion program.

The expungement process may take two years if you get a stayed sentence or a conviction for a misdemeanor or a petty misdemeanor. A caveat applies to this rule, however. You must not have faced any criminal conviction in the past two years of having your sentence stayed.

The process may take four years if you got a stayed sentence or a conviction for a gross misdemeanor. You must have no new criminal conviction since the court stayed your sentence or conviction for this rule to apply. 

The expungement process in Minneapolis, Minnesota, can take five years for petitioners looking to have a felony expunged. It may also last for five years if you got a stayed sentence or conviction for a felony, and you haven’t had any conviction since the sentence was discharged.

Expungement rules might change if your criminal case is resolved. For instance, you will not have to wait to have your criminal record sealed if the court or prosecutor dismisses the case or charge. The same applies if you got acquitted during trial. 

It takes state courts up to 48 hours to have their records reflect your expungement request. The state Department of Justice also updates its database after the state court seals the records. For federal agencies, the time frame for updating arrest or conviction records is between 30 and 60 days. 

Can Expunged Records Show Up on Background Checks?

Once an expungement order is granted, the state court will seal your criminal records. Sealing helps prevent public access to the records at any given time.

However, when a local government department or law enforcement agency is considering you for a job or investigating you for a crime, the records are accessible. Corrections authorities and prosecutors can also have the court unseal your criminal record.  

An expungement in Minnesota helps ensure that sealed criminal records do not show up on standard background checks. This way, it restricts potential employers and other civilians from finding out whether you have a criminal record. 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) runs the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), a database containing people’s records of arrests and convictions. It can only be seen by criminal justice officers. The database also reflects information gathered at the county and state levels. 

The specific court in which the criminal case was prosecuted is usually mandated to seal your records when an expungement petition is successful. However, if it fails to execute this mandate, some of your criminal records will still appear on third-party databases. In this case, your criminal history will show up on standard background checks. 

Besides helping you understand what crimes can be expunged and aggressively pushing the court to grant the petition, an expungement attorney can follow up with the relevant parties to have your records wiped from public databases.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

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