What Does it Mean to Expunge a Criminal Record? Here’s What You Need to Know
Is your past holding you back?
Everyone makes mistakes. But sometimes, our mistakes can haunt us for years to come.
One of the most glaring examples of this is criminal records. Even after you’ve paid your debt to society, your criminal record can still affect your ability to further your education, get that job you want, and even find adequate housing.
If something on your record is preventing you from living your best life, there’s help. A Minneapolis expungement lawyer can help clear up your record so you can work toward a better future.
What Does Expungement Mean?
Criminal expungement is a court process during which a person with a criminal history can ask a judge for their criminal record to be sealed. However, this does not mean the person’s criminal past is completely erased.
If a record is expunged, it cannot be viewed by the public. Prospective employers and landlords, for example, would not be able to see expunged records of past crimes when they run a standard background check on you.
What’s the Process for Expunging a Criminal Record?
So, how do you go about getting your criminal record sealed in Minnesota?
To start expungement proceedings, you will need to:
- Fill out a variety of court forms for a criminal expungement petition
- Serve those forms to any criminal justice agencies who hold records of your criminal record
- File court paperwork
- Attend a court hearing
Once these steps are completed, the judge will have time to review your request for expungement and deliver judgment. The entire expungement process—from start to finish—could take up to six months to finalize.
Statutory Expungement Vs. Inherent Authority Expungement
When you go through the statutory expungement process, if your case meets specific requirements, the judge could order not only the court record but all public criminal records held by other government agencies—like police records and prosecution records—to be sealed.
This is often referred to as “full expungement.”
Partial expungement can sometimes be granted when your case does not meet the requirements of Minnesota law for full expungement. Basically, the judge does have the power to order that only court records be sealed. However, the public records of other government agencies will still remain unsealed.
This is often called inherent authority expungement and might still help you gain employment and housing, depending on the type of background check performed.
What Crimes Can Be Expunged?
Not every crime in Minnesota can be expunged.
Under Minnesota expungement law, the judge will consider a variety of factors before delivering a judgment on a request for sealing criminal records:
- The severity of the criminal offense
- How much time has passed since the initial crime was committed
- Your criminal case history and arrest record
- Any rehabilitation efforts on your part
- How the criminal record is currently affecting your quality of life
Most records of misdemeanor offenses, juvenile records, and criminal cases decided in the defendant’s favor are eligible for criminal expungement.
Which Felonies Can Be Expunged in Minnesota?
There are even some felonies that can be expunged in the state of Minnesota. Some of the most common felonies eligible for expungement include 5th-degree drug crimes, theft of property that doesn’t exceed $5,000, forgery, and receiving stolen property.
Some examples of felonies that are not typically eligible for full expungement include:
- Felony drug offenses (1st–4th degree)
- Felony assault or domestic assault
- Felony sex crimes
- Felony DWIs
- Felony burglary
- Any felony offense that mandates registration
Common Questions After a Criminal Record is Expunged
Who Can See Expunged Court Records?
Once a criminal record is expunged, it will not be visible to the public. However, court officials—like judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement—can view your entire criminal record. In fact, an expunged record can still be used against you in sentencing for future criminal cases.
In addition to the courts, public agencies will have access to your expunged adult criminal record if you apply for employment with a public agency. Examples include schools, police departments, and human services agencies.
Do Expunged Criminal Records Show Up on Fingerprinting?
When someone is arrested for a crime and fingerprinted, law enforcement can see the person’s criminal record in full—even a criminal record that has been expunged. Sealing criminal records does not prevent law enforcement or other government agencies from seeing your criminal past.
If My Record is Expunged, Can I Answer “No” to Disclosure Questions?
In general, after your criminal record is expunged, you can legally answer ‘no’ to questionnaires that ask about your criminal history.
Keep in mind, however, that certain government agencies will be able to see your expunged record, so if the question is being asked by one of those agencies, it’s best to answer “yes” and explain, if possible.
Don’t Navigate the Criminal Justice System Alone
Being charged with a crime and getting a criminal conviction is both stressful and life-altering. The criminal justice system is complex and challenging to navigate. You don’t have to brave the legal road ahead on your own.
If you need to be free of your criminal record, get in touch with an experienced expungement lawyer in Minneapolis and get the legal advice you need to move on with your life.