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FAQs on Criminal Expungement

Q: What is a crime?

A crime is an act prohibited by law where the person who committed the act may be punished by imprisonment, with or without a fine. If a person is convicted of a crime, he or she may be imprisoned and may have to pay a fine. A felony crime in Minnesota is punished by imprisonment for a period of at least one year. A gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor crime is punished by a fine or imprisonment of not more than 90 days. 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 criminal 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 Minnesota Department of Public. 

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 can 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 public "statewide" computerized record of criminal cases. The BCA also has private criminal records that may only be accessed by certain people and agencies.  An employer or a landlord can access the public records, and if he gets your written permission before doing the search, he may also see your private criminal record at the BCA. The private BCA 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 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 (put 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 seal 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. You can learn more about criminal expungement on the MN Courts Self-Help Center website and you could talk with a lawyer about your situation.

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. 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 probation 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.

Please see Frequently Asked Questions for more information on sealing convictions.

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.

 

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