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FAQs on Criminal Records
NOTICE: Effective January 1, 2015, the law on criminal expungement will change. (See MN Statutes § 609A.02.) The new law gives the court power to expunge more criminal records, including some convictions. The law also allows the judge to order other government agencies to expunge their records. This area of law is complicated, and court staff cannot give people legal advice, so we strongly suggest that you talk with a lawyer about how the new law could impact your case.
Q: What is a crime?
A crime is an act prohibited by law where the person may be punished by imprisonment, with or without a fine. If a person is convicted of a crime, they may be imprisoned andthey 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; as well as 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. A basic speeding ticket is generally not considered a crime under Minnesota law. The MN Dept. of Public Safety: Driver and Vehicle Services does maintain records of people who have a Minnesota driver's license, so you may want to contact them for more information.
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. An employer or a landlord will most likely search the court records of the county where you live or work. Whichever county (or counties) is searched will have only the criminal records for that particular county.
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 he gets your written permission before doing the search, he 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: My criminal court case was dismissed, so I don't 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. 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, or more. 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. Employers and landlords cannot see sealed records; law enforcement and immigration agencies can see them.
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 a dismissed case. However, if you were convicted, the judge generally cannot order the BCA and other agencies to expunge or seal their records. If you want to try to expunge all conviction records kept by any agency, you should talk with a lawyer.
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.
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