Expungement written on a document with gavel, stamp, book and glasses. sealing of records

What Is the Difference Between Expungement and Sealing of Records?

Expungement and sealing of records in Minnesota affect how your criminal history appears to government agencies and the public. The main difference between the two legal actions is that expungement permanently removes past arrests, criminal charges, or convictions from private and public databases, while sealing hides the criminal record from the public. Courts, government entities, and law enforcement agencies can access sealed criminal records.

Expungement written on a document with gavel, stamp, book and glasses. sealing of records

Laws governing expungement and sealing of records vary from state to state. Some states expunge criminal records, and others offer sealing. Minnesota, for instance, treats expungement as sealing eligible criminal records from public records. An expungement attorney can review your situation, determine if your criminal records are eligible for expungement, and, if so, help you navigate the expungement process.

Want to get your criminal records expunged in Minnesota? Call Keller Criminal Defense Attorneys at (952) 913-1421 for legal help.

Expungement vs. Sealing of Records in Minnesota

Expungement refers to removing an arrest, criminal charge, or conviction from your criminal record. An expungement process clears your criminal past from your record, making it as if the offense or legal issue did not occur.

The expunged arrest, charge, or conviction will not appear on your record. So, you can submit a job or rental application without worrying about the hidden costs of a criminal conviction.

Sealing does not remove your criminal records. Instead, it hides them from the public, such as employers or property managers, performing basic background checks. Sealed records, however, are still accessible to some government and law enforcement agencies. You should also disclose your sealed records if you are looking for a job with a government agency or an organization that works with children.

What Is the Process of Filing for Expungement?

Filing for expungement generally includes the following steps:

Obtain Your Entire Criminal Case History

Although you can only file an expungement request in the county where the offense happened, you should obtain printouts of your criminal records from all over. Obtain records of all conviction and non-conviction cases.

You can obtain a copy of your criminal history from the clerk of the court in the county where your case happened. Get your full criminal case record from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) in person or by mail if you have an incident in multiple counties in Minnesota.

Request a printout of your criminal record from another state if you had a criminal incident outside Minnesota. You can do that by contacting courts in the respective state directly and requesting copies of your criminal case history. Alternatively, you can request your criminal record in other states from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) by mail or in person.

Check If You Meet Eligibility Criteria for Seeking Expungement

What crimes can be expunged in Minnesota? Ask yourself these questions before petitioning the court to expunge your criminal record. Generally, you must have served the entire probationary period and observed all the probation conditions to qualify for expungement. You must also not be facing a criminal charge for another offense or a probationary sentence for another crime.

Wait times apply before you can initiate the expungement process. The wait time depends on the level of offense you want to expunge. The time begins after you have served the probation term without getting convicted of another crime. Misdemeanors have up to two years of wait time, gross misdemeanors have four years, and eligible felonies have five years.

Obtain Paper Printouts of All the Required Expungement Forms

Obtain a complete set of expungement forms for each case you want to have expunged from your record. You can get the forms from the court clerk at the court that handled your case. Be ready to pay a for the forms.

These forms may be available on the Minnesota State Court website in a download and print format. They include a 3-page Petition for Expungement form, a 2-page Order Concerning Sealing of Records, and a 1-page proof of service.

Complete the Expungement Paperwork

Petitioning the court to expunge your criminal record involves completing many forms. So, it is best to work with a criminal defense lawyer every step of the way to ensure you have all the required forms and have filled them out correctly.

Schedule an Expungement Hearing

Request a date for an expungement hearing from the court that heard the criminal case in question. You can do this by calling the clerk of that court or visiting in person.

Sign the Petition and Serve the Agencies

Once you have completed your expungement petition, you should sign it and have another adult mail it to agencies that have your criminal case history. These agencies include BCA, the Attorney General’s Office, the City Attorney’s Office, the County Attorney’s Office, the County Department of Corrections, and the City Police Department. You will incur a small fee to mail your petition documents to these agencies.

File Your Petition

Once you have served your petition on all the relevant agencies, you can file it with the court where you requested an expungement hearing. A filing fee will apply to each case you want the court to expunge. The fee varies from county to county.

Court Hearing

Be present during your court hearing. Carry copies of your expungement petition forms and other supporting documentation with you. You may, for instance, carry regret letters from potential employers or an unsuccessful rental application if you failed to secure a job or house because of your criminal record.


The judge will rule on your expungement petition within 90 days of the court hearing. You will have 60 days to appeal the decision if the judge denies the expungement. If the judge grants the expungement, the served law enforcement agencies might appeal the decision if they are unhappy with it.

How Does the Process of Sealing Records Work?

The process of sealing records is similar to the expungement. Sealing records involve completing all the necessary forms and attaching supporting documents like proof of rehabilitation.

The next step is generating copies of the forms, signing them in the witness of a court clerk, and mailing each copy to the relevant government agency. Any person petitioning for the sealing of records in Minnesota cannot handle the service of process himself or herself. So, you must hire another person to mail the forms alongside the petition on your behalf.

File the original petition with the court that handled your case one or two days after serving the copies on agencies. A court hearing date will be scheduled. A judge will weigh the impact of sealing your records on the community against your benefits. If the judge approves the petition, your criminal record will be sealed within 60 days from the date of the judge’s decision.

Eligibility Criteria for Sealing of Records

Each state has its own laws governing the sealing of records. The decision to have your records sealed, however, lies with the presiding judge or attorney general. Your criminal record must satisfy criteria to be eligible for sealing. Whether your criminal record is eligible for sealing will depend on the following factors:

Where the Offense Happened

Did the offense happen inside or outside Minnesota? The state where the crime occurred determines whether you can have it erased or sealed. A petition for record sealing usually gets filed in the same court that heard your case. Some states offer expungement, while others have records sealed from the public.

In some states, both options are unavailable. Your option for having your criminal history removed from your record in such states is to request a pardon from the state’s governor.

Nature and Seriousness of the Offense

Whether your records will get sealed will depend on the type and seriousness of your offense. Felony convictions are usually ineligible for expungement or sealing in most states. Felony-level charges involving violent crimes like arson, felony sexual misconduct, and domestic do not qualify for sealing.

A criminal conviction involving violent crimes can cost you your kids, especially in divorce, domestic violence, and child custody cases. Your best bet at obtaining a favorable outcome from the case is having a seasoned criminal defense attorney in your corner.

Waiting Period

The time passed is a factor when determining eligibility for record sealing in most states. The case outcome determines the waiting time. Gross misdemeanor and felony convictions have longer waiting periods compared to dismissed charges. In most states, Minnesota included, no waiting time applies to sealing juvenile delinquency records.

Criminal History

The judge will consider your criminal history when deliberating on your sealing request. The judge may decline your request if you have other arrests and offenses related to the record you want to seal.

Keller Criminal Defense Attorneys have a stellar record of helping clients have their criminal records expunged. Contact us today for a free initial consultation with one of our seasoned attorneys.

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

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Confidential informants may provide integral information to help build criminal investigations, but how reliable is that information when they are receiving payment for their services? To protect them, state law requires the identity of informants be kept confidential. For those facing criminal charges, however, this creates challenges in questioning the accuracy and validity of the information given at trial.
Stay calm and compose after getting accused of a crime but not charged in Minneapolis, MN. Do not discuss the facts of your case with anyone, including your relatives and family members. Hire a criminal defense attorney with a demonstrated record of winning cases like yours. Your attorney will discuss your rights, guide you on how to cooperate with law enforcement within the legal boundaries, and build a solid defense strategy to fight the charges you could face in the future.
Minnesota recently passed a public safety bill that brings sweeping changes to the state’s juvenile justice system. While minors sometimes run afoul of the law, the juvenile justice system seeks to account for the differences between children and adults. Therefore, while the penalties for adults convicted of crimes focus on punishment, those for juveniles are aimed at diversion and restorative practices.