In Minnesota, expunging a criminal record may mean returning it to you, destroying it, or sealing it, depending on the circumstances of your case. This article discusses the situations in which you may be able to expunge your criminal record in Minnesota.
If You Were Not Convicted of a Crime
You were arrested but not charged with a crime. If you weren’t charged with a crime, or if your case was dismissed before a formal complaint was filed against you, you may be able to request that law enforcement agencies -- including the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) -- remove your arrest record from their files and return it to you.
To qualify, you must not have been convicted a felony or gross misdemeanor in the ten years prior to your arrest, nor may you have participated in a diversion program as a result of the arrest. In addition, one of the following must be true:
- any charges against you were dismissed before a determination of probable cause, or
- the prosecutor did not file charges and a grand jury did not indict you.
(Minnesota Statutes § 299C.11.)
If you were arrested and charged with a crime, but the outcome was in your favor. Your criminal record may be eligible for sealing if:
- you were found not guilty
- the charges against you were dismissed
- you never entered a guilty plea and successfully completed a pre-trial diversion program, or
- the outcome of your case was otherwise “in your favor.”
The agency in possession of your criminal record will not destroy it, but cannot disclose its existence or open it unless ordered to do so by a court or by statutory authority. (Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 609A.)
If you are uncertain about whether or not the outcome of your case was in your favor, consult an experienced criminal law attorney.
If You Were Convicted of a Crime
In Minnesota, expunging a conviction is possible, but not common. Records for certain controlled substance offenses may be sealed under Chapter 609A of the Minnesota Statutes. Records for other crimes may be sealed only by court authority. Among other things, you must prove to the court that:
- you have been denied work, housing, or a professional license because of your criminal record
- expunging your record won’t negatively affect public safety, and
- you have been rehabilitated.
Serious crimes such as murder, assault, driving while intoxicated, and sex offenses can never be expunged.
Note that even if a court orders that your conviction be expunged, only the court’s records will be sealed. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) will still have your crime on record, and the public will be able to see it. The court can order the BCA and other agencies to seal records of a conviction only if the court feels that to do otherwise would violate your constitutional rights. Because this is a rare outcome, it may not be worth your time to pursue expungement of your conviction.
You can learn more about expunging your criminal record by visiting the Minnesota Judicial Branch Self-Help Center.
Getting Legal Help
Cleaning up a criminal record can be complicated. If you are not sure whether your record qualifies for expungement in Minnesota -- or for advice about your personal situation -- you should contact a qualified criminal law attorney.