Criminal Expungement

Expungement is the process of going to court to ask a judge to seal a court record. It is important to remember that an expunged record is NOT destroyed. The police, FBI, immigration officers, and other public officials may still see sealed court files for certain purposes. Usually, people ask for an expungement when they have been denied a job, housing, or a professional license because of their criminal background. NOTE: Expungement of Housing Eviction Records is a different type of action.

Learn about:
Criminal Records at Government Offices
What Records Can Be Expunged
No Guarantee of Expungement
Expungement Forms & Fees
Get Help from a Lawyer
The Court Hearing
Arrest Records Only
Pardons
 

Criminal Records at Government Offices

Many government offices keep criminal records, including, but not limited to:
  • courts have records of all cases that have been filed with the court;
  • police keep records of arrests and investigations;
  • prosecutors have records of criminal cases;
  • agencies like the Dept. of Human Services may keep records; and
  • law enforcement agencies (police, State Patrol, etc.) send records to the MN Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA)
IMPORTANT!
The BCA is a common place for people to do background checks. If your criminal case ended in a conviction, records kept by other government offices, such as the BCA, might not get sealed through an expungement action. Getting an expungement also might not help you from being disqualified to work as a caregiver by the MN Dept. of Human Services. You need to decide if the effort and cost of asking for an expungement will benefit you.
 

What Records Can Be Expunged

When the Court Can Expunge All Public Records
In some criminal cases, the court has the authority to seal all government held records of criminal cases, which is sometimes referred to as a “full expungement.” This means that a court can issue an order to seal court records and records at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, police departments, corrections and other agencies.
The law in MN Statutes §609A.02 lists the specific situations when a court has the authority to seal all government held records (full expungement). The list includes:
  • some first time drug possession offenses resolved under certain laws;
  • offenses committed by juveniles who were prosecuted in adult criminal court;
  • cases that were resolved in your favor (i.e., you were found not guilty or the case was dismissed); and
  • some other convictions.
Convictions for petty misdemeanors, misdemeanors, and gross misdemeanors may be eligible for full expungement depending on:
 
  • what crime you were convicted of;
  • how much time has passed since your sentence was discharged; and
  • other cases that are on your criminal history.
Only specific types of felony crimes listed in MN Statutes §609A.02, subd. 3 may qualify for full expungement.

If you have a conviction on your record, you may qualify for a full expungement in the following circumstances:
 
  1. You successfully completed the terms of a diversion program or stay of adjudication and you have not been charged with a new crime for at least one year since you completed the diversion program or stay of adjudication;
  2. You were convicted of or received a stayed sentence for a petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor and you have not been convicted of a new crime for at least two years since the discharge of the sentence;
  3. If you were convicted of or received a stayed sentence for a gross misdemeanor and you have not been convicted of a new crime for at least four years since the discharge of the sentence;
  4. You were convicted of or received a stayed sentence for a qualifying felony and you have not been convicted of a new crime for at least five years since the discharge of the sentence for the crime.
EXCEPT: A court may not grant full expungement of criminal records if the underlying crime involved domestic abuse or sexual assault, a violation of an order for protection, a harassment restraining order or a domestic abuse no contact order, stalking, or criminal harassment. This exception in the law may expire on July 15, 2015.

When the Court Can Expunge Court Records Only If you have been convicted of a crime and your case does not fit into the "full expungement" categories listed above, a court may only have the authority to seal its own records. In those situations, there may be a public record of your criminal case at another agency, like the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Those records may show up on background checks for employment, licensing or housing even if the court record has been sealed.

Expungement is never allowed in cases where the defendant was required to register as a sex offender, even if the defendant is no longer required to register.

No Guarantee of Expungement

There is no guarantee that you will get an expungment, even if your case falls into the specific categories listed above. You need to complete the forms and convince the Judge that, on balance, the benefit to you from getting an expungement is more than the disadvantage it would be for the public to not have access to your criminal record. The court will have to make a decision about the following factors:
  1. The nature and severity of the underlying crime;
  2. The risk, if any, the petitioner poses to specific people or society;
  3. The length of time since the crime occurred;
  4. The steps petitioner has taken in rehabilitation since the crime;
  5. Aggravating or mitigating factors relating to the underlying crime, including the petitioner’s level of participation and context and circumstances of the underlying crime;
  6. The reasons for the expungement, including the petitioner’s attempts to obtain employment, housing or other necessities;
  7. The petitioner’s complete criminal record;
  8. The petitioner’s record of employment and community involvement;
  9. The recommendations of interested law enforcement, prosecutorial, and corrections officials;
  10. The recommendations of victims or whether victims of the underlying crime were minors;
  11. The amount, if any, of restitution outstanding, past efforts made by the petitioner toward payment, and the measures in place to help ensure completion of restitution payment after expungement of the record if granted;
  12. Other factors deemed relevant by the court.
Expungement involves a lot of work with forms and attention to detail, and it takes at least 4 months to complete the process. If you decide to go forward and request an expungement, be sure that you talk to a lawyer or, at a minimum, that you understand all of the required procedures and that you carefully follow them.
 

Expungement Forms & Fees

You must get the Criminal Expungement Forms from the "Forms" tab on this page and fill them out. Then you make copies of your forms and have another adult serve them for you on the prosecutor and all other government offices who keep criminal records. Correctly serving all the required government offices is usually the most difficult step for people. Make sure you keep a photocopy of your completed forms for yourself.

IMPORTANT STEP: Use the Proof of Service Form EXP104 to serve your expungement forms on the required government offices.

Then file the original forms with the court and pay the filing fee. The filing fee may be waived if your criminal case was dismissed. If you are low income, you may also ask for a fee waiver.
 

Get Help from a Lawyer

You can ask for an expungement on your own, but it is best to try to get a lawyer's help. If you qualify based on low income, you may be eligible for help from legal aid offices or volunteer attorneys. You also have the right to talk to or hire a private attorney. If free legal help is not available to you and you cannot afford to hire an attorney, you may choose to represent yourself.
 

The Court Hearing

You must go to a hearing in court to ask for expungement, unless you get a notice from the court that tells you that you do not have to attend a hearing. On the day of your hearing, you have an opportunity to tell the judge why you need the expungement. The government offices you served with copies have the right to object to an expungement at any time before OR at the hearing. If they object before the hearing, they often send a letter to the judge and send you a copy of the letter. An objection does NOT mean that your expungement will be denied.

You should be prepared to respond to concerns raised by any objecting party when you talk with the judge, and you can respond to any objections made by any party at the hearing. The judge will then decide whether or not to expunge your record, and the court will send you a notice of the decision. If the judge grants the expungement, there is a 60 day waiting period before the records can be officially sealed.

Check with your District Court to see where your hearing will be located. Usually only one hearing is held in an expungement case.

Appearing in court is a very important part of a case, and all parties are expected to arrive early, dress properly, and act respectfully. Read "Tips for Your Day in Court" on how to prepare for your court hearing.
 

Arrest Records Only

If you were only arrested but not charged with a crime, there will not be a court record for that event. Law enforcement agencies and the BCA, however, may have records of the arrest. There is a non-court process for sealing arrest records. See Expunge Arrest Records for more details.
 

Pardons

The Minnesota Board of Pardons is governed by the law at MN Statutes Ch. 638, and its members include the The board has the power to grant pardons in certain criminal cases under certain conditions. If you have questions about the pardon application process, you may contact the Board of Pardons office at (651) 361-7171. This is not a court process, so if you need help asking for a pardon, you should talk with a lawyer.
 
 
Q: What is a crime?
A crime is an act prohibited by law.  A person convicted of a crime may be punished by imprisonment and/or a fine. A felony crime in Minnesota can punished by imprisonment for a period of more than one year. A gross misdemeanor crime can be punished by imprisonment for anywhere between 91 and 365 days, or a fine of up to $3,000.  A misdemeanor crime can be punished by imprisonment of not more than 90 days, or a fine of up to $1,000. A petty misdemeanor is not considered a crime. See MN Statutes § 609.02 Definitions.

Q: What is my Minnesota criminal record and where is it kept?
Your complete Minnesota criminal record is a combination of all of the files and records of any felony, gross misdemeanor, misdemeanor, or petty misdemeanor(s) ever charged against you in Minnesota.  Your record will also include records of the sentences served for those charges. Every city, county and state law enforcement agency, prosecutor's office and courthouse keeps its own records.

Q: Does my criminal case history include my driving record?
No, not unless you were charged with a crime at the level of misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony, e.g., criminal vehicular manslaughter. If you try to withdraw a guilty plea in a citation, this may result in a court record of a traffic citation.  A basic speeding ticket is generally not considered a crime under Minnesota law. The MN Dept. of Public Safety: Driver and Vehicle Services maintains records of people who have a Minnesota driver's license, so you may want to contact them for more information.

Q: Can I expunge my driving record?
You can ask the court to seal any criminal court record, if you meet the standards under the law.  However, this will not seal any records held at the MN Dept. of Public Safety. 

Q: What criminal court information is public?
The type of crime charged, the name of the court that convicted or dismissed the charges, the date of conviction or dismissal, a description of the sentence served, if any, and other details of the crime and court process.

NOTE: For criminal expungement petitions, do NOT rely on information from records viewed on the internet through MNCIS - MPA Remote. Get the detailed history of your criminal case(s) by getting the "Register of Actions" at a MNCIS terminal in the courthouse or by contacting Court Administration.

Q: Can employers and landlords check my state criminal court record?
Yes. In Minnesota, any person can search District Court criminal records at the county courthouse.

Another place that the public, including employers and landlords, check criminal records is at the MN Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) in St. Paul. Law enforcement agencies throughout Minnesota report information in their records to the BCA. The BCA has a "statewide" computerized record of criminal cases, part of which is accessible to the public and part of which is private. An employer or a landlord can access the public records, and if they get your written permission before doing the search, they may also see your private criminal record at the BCA. The BCA private records include juvenile criminal history, and may also include details about being arrested. Contact the BCA for more specific information on their policies and procedures on records.

Q: If my criminal court case was dismissed, do I have a criminal record?
Yes. You have a public criminal record that says you were charged with a crime and that your charge was later dismissed.

Q: My arrest and conviction happened 10 years ago. When does this information drop off my court criminal record?
Minnesota Courts retain some type of record of court cases forever. Just because a case is old does not mean the record is no longer available to be viewed by the public. Older paper files may be archived (in storage), saved on microfiche, or saved in a digital format, but information about court cases will always be saved; information never automatically "drops off." Court records are viewable by the public unless sealed by law or court order.

Q: Is there anything I can do to clear my record?
You can ask the court to seal criminal court cases and other records. This is called "expungement." This action does not "erase" your criminal case history, but it does limit who can see it.

Q: Will the judge grant my expungement request?
No one can predict how a judge will decide a request for expungement.

Q: What do I need to do to request a criminal expungement?
Get the Criminal Expungment Forms and Instructions. Read the Instructions carefully.  Fill out the forms and print them. Make copies of the forms and have someone serve them to the government agencies involved. File the originals (not copies) at the courthouse and pay a filing fee (or request a Fee Waiver.) Attend a hearing with a judge. Get a written order from the judge either granting or denying your request.

Q: How long does the expungement process take?
At least 4 months. By law, at least 63 days must pass from when your forms are served to the government agencies to when a judge holds the hearing to consider your request. If the judge grants the expungement, another 60 days will pass before the court actually seals your record.

Q: If my criminal case is expunged, what happens to my court record?
A sealed state court record still exists but it is "invisible" to the general public. If the expunged crime was the only crime on your record, you will not have a court record that the public can see. Most employers and landlords cannot see sealed records; law enforcement and immigration agencies can see them.  Sealed cases can be reopened in certain types of employment checks, including criminal justice agencies, human services, and Department of Education jobs.  Sealed cases can be reopened for criminal investigations and for sentencing or probations services, or for other reasons by a court order.

Q: What about sealing the BCA and other agencies' records?
Under current Minnesota law, a state court judge can order the BCA and other agencies to expunge criminal cases that were dismissed and some criminal cases that resulted in convictions.  If you want to try to expunge all conviction records kept by any agency, you should talk with a lawyer.

Q: How do I know if my conviction can be expunged?
Minnesota law sets out certain standards for sealing cases where there was a conviction, a stay of adjudication or where the person completed a diversionary program. In general, the court’s authority to seal another agency’s records depends on what type of crime is involved, the level of charge/conviction, the length of time since the sentence was discharged and other cases on a person’s criminal record.

Q: The MN Dept. of Human Services disqualified me from working direct care job. What can I do?
For details on this issue, read the Legal Fact Sheet: Disqualification by MN Dept. Human Services published by the MN Legal Services Coalition.

Q: Can the court order the MN Dept of Human Services to seal their records of my criminal history?
Maybe.  The court has the authority to order a government agency to seal its records regarding someone’s criminal history.  The government agency will have to be properly served with the request for expungement. The court will also consider any objection that the agency makes about sealing your criminal record.


 
 

Step 1: Get your criminal case history

Before you start to fill out your forms, you must get the detailed history of your criminal case(s) for all cases where you were charged with a crime, including cases where you were not convicted. You must write details of your case histories into the court forms.
 

Step 2: Get the court forms for criminal expungement

You can download Criminal Expungement Forms or you can buy a pre-printed forms packet along with your criminal case history at your local courthouse.
 

Step 3: Fill out the forms

    Video tutorial that explains step-by-step how to complete the forms and the procedures to follow after completing the forms.

    Printed instructions to learn how to fill out the forms and understand the procedures to follow after completing the forms.

Note: The Criminal Expungement forms were updated in January of 2015.  We are in the process of updating the Step-by-Step Guide to Criminal Expungement in both video in pdf format to match the updates to the forms.

 
Step 4: Notify specific government offices about your expungement case

IMPORTANT STEP: Use Proof of Service Form EXP104 to serve expungement forms on government offices who might have a record of your criminal case. 

The most difficult step for many people is serving notice of their expungement petition on government offices that keep criminal records. It is VERY important to do this step correctly. If you make a mistake, an expungement that is granted may not affect some government offices, OR you might have to start over.
 

Arrested, but not charged?

If you were arrested but not charged with a crime, there will not be a court record for that event. The police and the BCA may have records of the arrest, and there is a non-court process to expunge arrest (only) records under Minnesota law.
 

Get Help with Criminal Expungement

Visit Legal Advice Clinics & Self-Help Centers available in your area. If you have a low income, you be qualify for help from a legal aid office or volunteer attorney. The Council on Crime & Justice also offers free expungement workshops for the public.
 
 
Laws & Rules on Criminal Expungement
The following is a list of some of the laws and rules that deal with criminal expungement in Minnesota. See also Laws, Rules & Legal Research. If you were arrested but not charged with a crime, there will not be a court record for that event. Law enforcement agencies and the BCA, however, may have records of the arrest. There is a non-court process for sealing arrest records. See Expunge Arrest Records for more details.

You can get more help with your legal research at your local law library. Talk with a lawyer if you want to know how the laws and rules may affect your case.
 
To ask for expungement, you will need specific details for all court cases where you were charged with a crime, including cases where you were not convicted. This includes State and Federal criminal cases, and cases in other countries. In the Minnesota State Court system, case details are listed in the "Register of Actions," which you can get from District Court Administration. Under Minnesota state law, a crime includes a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony. A petty misdemeanor is not a crime according to MN Statutes § 609.02 subd. 4(a).
 

Criminal Case History at the Courthouse

Get the detailed history of your criminal case(s) by getting the "Register of Actions" at a courthouse MNCIS terminal or from District Court Administration. Do not rely on the information listed in MPA Remote - Court Records because that data is not as detailed as what you will get at the courthouse. If you have a criminal case in more than one county, you will need the details of the cases from each county.


Criminal Records at Other Agencies

Law enforcement agencies are required to report certain details about crimes to the MN Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). You should also get the details of your criminal record on file at the BCA. The BCA criminal record may be different from your criminal court record. Visit the BCA Criminal History Records website to find out how you can search and get copies of BCA records. You can also contact the BCA at:

MN Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
1430 Maryland Avenue
CJIS Section
St. Paul, MN 55106
(651)793-2400

If you had a criminal case in another state, contact that court directly to get your criminal record information. You may also want to contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) if you are not sure what cases you have in other states. The FBI mailing address is:

FBI-CJIS Division - Summary Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, VA 26306
(304)625-5590