The best way to clean up a criminal history to to file a petition to the courts for an expungement.
What is Criminal Expungement?
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"What is a Criminal Expungement?” (5 minutes)
What is Criminal Expungement?
Criminal “Expungement” is the process of going to court to ask a Judge to seal a criminal record. When a record is sealed, it does not show up in a criminal background check. It is important to remember that a sealed record is not destroyed. The police, immigration authorities, and other public officials may still see sealed court files for certain purposes.
Usually, people become interested in criminal expungement when they are denied a job, housing, or a professional license because of their criminal record. Several government offices keep records of criminal cases; the court has records of all matters filed with the court, the police have a record of the arrest, and the prosecutors’ offices keep records, too. In addition, Minnesota criminal justice agencies are required to send records to the state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) in St. Paul. The BCA records are searchable by the public for a small fee.
Even if you are found "not guilty" in a criminal case, you still have a criminal record. But, the laws of Minnesota permit expungement of a case if the outcome is "in your favor." For example, if you are arrested and charged, but the prosecutor later decides to dismiss the case, you may ask for an expungement. If you never entered a guilty plea and you successfully completed a pre-trial “diversion program,” you may also qualify for an expungement. A conviction (pleading guilty or being found guilty) is not an outcome "in your favor."
|IMPORTANT! Criminal laws are very complicated, and knowing when an outcome is "in your favor" can be difficult to figure out. If you have any questions about whether your case was resolved "in your favor," ask a staff person at your court or speak with a lawyer.|
Expungement of a criminal conviction is possible, but not often granted. Serious crimes like murder, aggravated assault, driving while intoxicated, and sex offender crimes are never expunged. Less serious crimes may be expunged only if you can show that you have made real changes in your life, that you are a different person now, and that it is very unlikely that you will commit another crime. Even when the court grants an expungement of a conviction, the records kept by some agencies, including the BCA, might not be sealed. This is important because the BCA is the most common place to go to check if a person has a criminal background.
An expungement is never guaranteed. You need to do the paperwork and convince the Judge that, on balance, the benefit of the expungement to you is greater than the disadvantage it would be for the public to not have access to your criminal record. This generally means you have to prove that:
- you have been denied work, housing, or a professional license because of your record;
- sealing your criminal record will not negatively affect public safety; and
- you have rehabilitated yourself.
Requesting an expungement of a criminal record requires a lot of paperwork and attention to detail, and it takes at least 4 months to complete the process. If you decide to go forward and request a criminal expungement, be sure that you talk with an attorney or, at a minimum, that you understand all of the requirements and procedures and that you carefully follow them.