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Minnesota Defense Attorney Explains Criminal Expungement Laws

Effective January 1, 2015, Minnesota’s new Second Chance Law overhauls Minnesota’s previous expungement law. Under the legislation, a full expungement – which seals both court records and executive branch records – may be granted, depending on the type of case the individual is seeking to have expunged. The end result is that more Minnesotans will get a meaningful remedy when they successfully petition for an expungement of their criminal case.

After the first legislation was passed, a second wave of eligible offenses for expungement was added, increasing the list of offenders eligible for a second chance.

Minnesota criminal defense attorneys commonly field a lot of questions about the recent changes to Minnesota’s expungement laws.  The new law can be difficult to explain as each case is different depending on the exact situation. The first thing to know is what the law entails, as well as who is and who is not eligible under the legislation.

The Minnesota Expungement Laws

An expungement is a formal judicial process where records of an individual’s criminal past are permanently sealed. This simply means Minnesota’s expungement law seals records with the practical effect of erasing past crimes from public searches and most databases depending on the severity of the criminal act. This law also considers steps taken since the crime was committed and how dedicated an individual is remedying the wrongdoing.

The law was created specifically to make it easier for individuals convicted of crimes to find employment and get reliable housing. After having certain crimes expunged from their records through the Minnesota Expungement Law, it also allows individuals to overcome other obstacles with an application process without being deterred by their criminal past.

Given that Minnesotans with past criminal records often have difficulties finding employment and safe housing, having this opportunity to demonstrate a changed lifestyle and move forward from that past is a very big deal.

However, the laws for expungement do require a process and it is suggested that an individual secure the assistance of an attorney.

Minnesota Expungement Law Eligibility

Sealing off records from the public’s eye can be a contentious process. Sometimes the process is just a matter of the judge signing off on the paperwork without objection. Most offenders can apply for the expungement process 1-5 years after the punishment and probation have been served.

Under the new laws, the following types of cases are eligible for expungement:

  • Individuals convicted of drug possession crimes under Minnesota statutes 152.024, 152.025, or 152.027 and granted a disposition under Minnesota Statute 152.18 may petition for expungement at any time after the dismissal of the proceedings
  • Most records related to juvenile delinquency can be expunged at any time, no matter when the adjudication occurred or what level of offense
  • The new law continues the existing prohibition that violent felonies and sex offenses can never be expunged (unless, as noted, the offense occurred in juvenile delinquency court)
  • If the case was resolved “in favor of the petitioner,” either by acquittal or dismissal
  • If the case resulted in diversion or stay of adjudication, and the individual has remained crime-free for one year or more after completion of the sentence
  • If the case resulted in a petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor conviction, and the individual has remained crime-free for two years or longer after discharge from the crime
  • If the case resulted in a gross misdemeanor conviction, and the individuals has remained crime-free for four years or more after the completion of the sentence
  • If the case resulted in a low-level, non-violent felony conviction specified in the statute, and the individual has remained crime-free for five years or more after the completion of the sentence A detailed list of eligible felonies is found in Minnesota Statutes Section 609A.02, Subd. 3(b)
  • Records of a conviction of an offense for which registration is required under Minnesota Statute section 243.166 may not be expunged.

There is an important corollary to the above. While the new law makes the listed types of cases eligible for expungement, the new law also requires in many circumstances (mostly those involving a conviction) that the person prove to the court by clear and convincing evidence that the need to have their record sealed outweighs public safety concerns. Only then will the Court issue an order to have their expungement petition granted.


Minnesota’s Second Chance expungement law is an excellent example of criminal justice reform across Minnesota and other areas of the country. It allows for a second chance for individuals who have served their time and completed their sentence.

The expungement application process, however, can be difficult to manage on one’s own. Having a lawyer to guide you through the process is not only efficient but could be the difference between a fresh start or not.

For all questions regarding criminal defense and the expungement process, please set up a consultation with Jacob Allen, a trial-tested criminal defense attorney and partner at O’Brien & Wolf, L.L.P.

An initial consultation can be done in-person at our offices or over the phone. As an experienced criminal defense attorney, Jacob Allen understands how detailed and confusing the legal system can be and can help sort through your questions, offer input, and help you understand the law and your rights. Contact Jacob for your initial consultation

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