The value of complicated expungements

Having a criminal record in Minnesota can hamper a person’s efforts to get a job or a professional license. It may also cause a bit of embarrassment. It is often well worth it to look into the possibility of a legal expungement.

Expungement law is complex, with many technicalities concerning what a court may expunge and what it may not. There can be differences in the extent to which the law may order the sealing of records. The petitioning party will also need to take many steps to have best chances of an order of expungement.

Petition seals but does not destroy records

Petitioning for an expungement is essentially a request to the court asking it to seal a court record. The court does not destroy the record, however. That court may order a sealing of its own records from certain access, such as a standard background check that would-be employers can perform.

The judge cannot always seal criminal records for other purposes or from certain government employees in the scope of their duties, including the following:

  • Police
  • FBI
  • Immigration officers

There may be other public officials who can access sealed court files for appropriate and legal purposes.

Circumstances determine full expungements

Many exceptions exist that complicate expungement laws. Minn. Stat. §609A.02 provides particular circumstances when a court may order a full expungement. A full expungement allows for the sealing of all government-held records. Some possible situations amenable to full expungement include the following:

  • Certain initial drug possession offenses
  • Certain juvenile offenses where the prosecution of the defendant was conducted in adult court
  • Cases where the court or jury found the defendant not guilty
  • Cases where a court dismissed the charges

There are other instances where full expungement may be available as well.

Steps lead to expungement

Successfully filing for expungement includes properly serving notice on all interested government agencies. The person seeking the expungement will often later appear in court for a hearing. He or she may explain to the judge the reason for needing the expungement. The agencies or offices served notice may object to the expungement that the judge will also consider.

Despite the complexity of expungement requests and the technicalities involved, the value to the person who successfully gets such an order is immense, both to future livelihood and personal satisfaction.