How to Expunge your Record

Having a criminal record can lead to challenges in the future. Employers and landlords frequently inquire about your past legal issues and use that information to make hiring or rental decisions. Expungement is a way to shield your past offenses from affecting your future. It's a legal process that hides your arrest or conviction record from public view. However, it's important to know that it's not the simplest process to navigate.

Start by Obtaining Your Complete Criminal Case History

In an expungement case, you'll need to collect specific details about your legal history, including situations where you were charged with a crime, even if you weren't found guilty. This covers cases in state and federal courts, as well as any legal matters in other countries. To gather this information, you'll need to reach out to various government offices:

  • Courts, where case records are kept.
  • Police departments, where arrest and investigation records are maintained.
  • Prosecutors, who hold records of criminal cases.

Additionally, law enforcement agencies are required to report specific details to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). It's a good idea to get your record from the BCA, as it may differ from your court record.

If you're dealing with cases from another state and are unsure about them, contact the relevant court directly. If you need help with cases in other states, you can reach out to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

What Records can be Expunged?

In some cases, the court has the authority to seal all government-held records of criminal cases--this is called a statutory/whole expungement. This would ensure that the court records and records at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, police departments, corrections, and other agencies are sealed as well. Without a “statutory/whole expungement”, records kept by other agencies may not get sealed. According to Minnesota law, a statutory/whole expungement is allowed in specific situations including:

  • First-time drug offenses resolved under certain laws.
  • Offenses committed by juveniles who were prosecuted in adult criminal court.
  • Cases that were resolved in your favor.
  • Convictions for petty misdemeanors, misdemeanors, and gross misdemeanors dependent on the crime, how much time has passed, and individual criminal history.

In situations where a statutory/whole expungement is not allowed, the court may only have the authority to seal its own records. In these situations, there may be a public record of your criminal case at another agency, like the BCA. And unfortunately, BCA records show up on background checks for employment.

Expungement is Not Guaranteed

Even if your case meets the requirements above, expungement is not guaranteed. Numerous forms must be completed and a Judge will determine if the benefit from receiving an expungement is greater than the disadvantage it would be for the public to not have access to your criminal record. That decision is based on:

  • How serious your crime was.
  • Whether you might still pose a risk to society.
  • How much time has passed since the crime.
  • What you've done to turn things around.
  • Why you want the expungement (examples: to secure a job or a place to live.).
  • Your criminal history, work experience, and community involvement.
  • If you owe any money for restitution.
  • Other factors deemed relevant by the court.

Process for Expungement

The process for expungement can be tedious and involves a lot of work. In addition to securing your entire criminal history, numerous forms need to be filled out and completed. It is estimated that expungement takes a minimum of four months to complete the entire process. Although expungement can be done alone, it is best to get an experienced lawyer on your side to navigate the legalities and forms that are required.

Related Articles:

Expungements: How They Work and More

Want Your Criminal Record Sealed?

Why Should You Get Your Criminal Record Expunged?