Minnesota Criminal Expungement & Pardon
Learn more about expungement in Minnesota, here.
Records of an arrest, criminal charge or conviction can:
- destroy a person’s ability to get gainful employment,
- impair a person’s opportunity to reach their full income-earning potential,
- prevent, impair or destroy a person’s professional or occupational licenses,
- create barriers to person qualifying for quality rental housing, and
- diminish and destroy a person’s future in other important ways.
Thomas Gallagher is a Minneapolis criminal lawyer. And he has handled Minnesota criminal records expungement cases as part of his criminal defense practice, since 1988.
In that time, hundreds have called about expunging their Minnesota criminal records – after it was all but too late. So don’t wait until after a guilty plea and sentence.
The best time to prepare for expungement?
Before pleading guilty
Step one, then step two: To protect your public record, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
An expungement motion is more difficult (might never happen), after a guilty plea or conviction.
Attorney Thomas Gallagher has helped his clients get an “expungeable outcome” in the first place. And that’s an outcome that favors a future expungement motion.
So be sure your criminal defense lawyer is thinking ahead for you. And make sure they discuss the potential for a future Minnesota expungement, with you.
Compared to a Pardon
Minnesota law provides various strategies for cleaning up your record.
Among those remedies are “expungement” and “pardon extraordinary.”
In some ways, a Pardon is better than a typical Minnesota Court Expungement Order. See: Civil Rights, Guns & Marijuana: Why Minnesota Expungement is Broken.
And restoration of civil rights to firearms is one example. So, a pardon restores full civil rights, including Second Amendment rights. But a Minnesota expungement does not.
A “pardon extraordinary” may be available from the Minnesota state pardons board, (not the courts.)
Minnesota criminal records expungement laws
We can simplify Minnesota expungement law into four categories:
1. Minnesota Statutes §299C.11 – No Probable Cause
Where there was no charge or a court never found probable cause, this statute applies. And it provides for the return of identification (booking) data, and records clean up.
2. Minnesota Statutes Chapter 609 – Partial sealing only
Where (a) juvenile certified as an adult; or (b) certain first-time drug offenders; or (c) certain specified criminal proceedings. See, Minnesota Statutes §609A.02.
3. An “inherent authority of the court” expungement,
The least attractive type, it’s the only expungement type available for those who do not qualify for a better option.
4. Juvenile Expungement.
What about expungement of a juvenile record?
After all, a juvenile adjudication for a Minnesota felony at 16 or older is a public juvenile record.
Minnesota Statutes Section 260B.198, Subd. 6, authorizes the court to expunge juvenile “adjudications of delinquency.” And the court has authority to expunge executive branch records; according to a 2012 Minnesota Court of Appeals case.
Minnesota Statutes Section 609A.02, Subd. 2, addresses “juveniles prosecuted as adults.” And it allows a Petition for Expungement following an adult certification and commitment to the Commissioner of Corrections; or if the person was on court probation, after discharge.
But neither statute explicitly addresses a person convicted and sent to prison after Extended Juvenile Jurisdiction (EJJ).
True expungement: The first type of expungement, under Minnesota Statutes §299C.11 provides for the best type. But unfortunately, it is available to few. So, it requires no criminal charge filed, or no court finding of probable cause.
But, for those who do qualify, they may get the return of identification data, and clean up public records.
The most common, available type
Minnesota Statutes Chapter 609A. Expungement of criminal records under this statute is available in cases where:
- juveniles certified as an adult
- certain drug defendants (successfully completed Minnesota Statutes §152.18; some cannabis convictions)
- others where the charge “decision in defendants favor.” Appellate cases define this simply as “no guilty plea”
- certain cases specified where there was a conviction, after a specified period
See Minnesota Statutes §609A.02. The remedy is only “sealing” the “public” records (not return of records as with §299C.11). And, what the court seals, it can unseal by future court order, in the event of future criminal investigation. But it is “non-public” in the meantime.
Limitations on the value of a 609A expungement: The statute has a growing list of exceptions, in Subd. 7a “Limitations of order.” And these include the Minnesota Department of Human Services and Department of Education. So, a person anticipating an occupational license should beware.
So consider this before filing; if you want a job working with children, vulnerable adults, law enforcement or teaching.
Minnesota Courts’ Expungement Forms and Instructions
You can find helpful forms, videos and instructions about seeking an Expungement Order on the Minnesota Courts’ website. Using them, you may be able to successfully apply and get a Court Expungement Order. This will take considerable effort and attention to detail, to do so correctly. But even if you end up hiring a lawyer, understanding the process helps. And many have done it without a lawyer.
When you ask the Minnesota Pardons Board for a pardon, or a judge for an expungement, what are persuasive factors?
- The nature of the offense of conviction
- The passage of time, without other convictions
- Evidence of rehabilitation and lack of threat to public safety
People are more willing to forgive a less serious crime than the most serious crimes. And time is the great healer. So, we are more forgiving of sins from long ago.
Can you reassure the Board or the judge that you are not a threat to public safety in the future? Is there evidence you can point to? So, just living a productive, law abiding life since then, can go a long way.
Is one of the several types of Minnesota expungement Orders right for you? Or, what about an alternative, like:
- a pardon extraordinary or
- a court motion to withdraw a guilty plea, vacate a conviction, and dismiss a charge?
Note: Gallagher Criminal Defense no longer accepts expungement cases; but can help counsel for Pardon applications.