A Detroit woman was arrested during a peaceful protest for a health care demonstration. According to The Wall Street Journal, the charges against her were dropped. However, when she sought employment, she was denied because she could not locate the paperwork showing that she was never convicted and the charges were dismissed. She said the record of her arrest continues to haunt her years after the incident.
Fortunately, a new law effective Jan. 1, 2015, will change the way Minnesota handles the expungement of criminal records.
The new guidelines
Currently, judges are unable to seal records held by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. According to the Council on Crime and Justice, the new law will permit a full expungement to seal not only executive branch records but also court records of criminal convictions based on the following situations:
- Any case resulting in either an acquittal or dismissal may be expunged.
- Any case resulting in diversion or a stay of adjudication may be expunged one year after the person completes the sentence.
- Any case resulting in a gross misdemeanor may be expunged four years after completing the sentence.
- Any case resulting in a petty misdemeanor may be expunged two years after completing the sentence.
- Any case resulting in a non-violent, low-level felony conviction may be expunged five years after the sentence has been completed.
- Any juvenile delinquency records may be expunged.
In order to request an expungement, people must file a request in the county where the criminal record is held. It is important to note that people who wish to have their records expunged must remain crime-free during the noted timeframe. Additionally, anyone convicted of a crime will have to demonstrate that there are no public safety concerns should the records be sealed.
Why it matters
According to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal, nearly one-third of Americans have an arrest record, even if no charges resulted. Having any mark on a criminal record can be a handicap for people who are trying to find gainful employment, sufficient housing and even further education.
The BCA is the source employers and landlords and others use to obtain background check information on candidates. Sealing those records will effectively give a second chance to Minnesota residents with a history of arrest or criminal convictions when they are looking to improve their future.