Wouldn’t it be nice to have a time machine? We were all young once and most of us know that there are things that we did in our teens and twenties that we would never have done later in life. We are human, we make mistakes. Yet, if you have a permanent criminal record from these embarrassing mistakes then you may be wondering if there is anything that you can do to have the records erased, sealed or (if you have already done some research) expunged.
Having a criminal record can be much more than just embarrassing. Depending on the crime; a criminal record can stop you from leaving the Country, obtaining a lucrative career, having a pistol permit and much more.
In the state of Minnesota, expungement is difficult but very doable.
Expungement, also known as “setting aside a criminal conviction”, begins with a Petition to the Court of original conviction. Often a blank Petition with sections to “fill in the blanks” can be obtained online at sites such as mncourts.gov. However, it is advisable to have an attorney draft a Petition that is specific to your case. You are making your initial argument for why the Judge would want to even hear your case.
Some districts require approval from the District Attorney’s Office in the County or City of conviction. If your conviction was by a City Court Judge then you may want to consult both the City District Attorney’s Office and the County District Attorney’s Office to see if approval is required for your Petition for Expungement or Petition to set aside a criminal conviction (different terms for the same thing).
The Petition needs to be clear and accurate. There may be a list of required documents to attach to the Petition such as the original accusatory statements and even Court transcripts. There is generally also a process for obtaining these documents. If the Petition is sloppy and incomplete then it won’t even reach the Judge for review. The Court clerk will mail it back to you with a list of what is incorrect and the process may take even longer.
So, what should go in the Petition? The Judge is going to want to see evidence that you have been “rehabilitated” in one way or another. The longer the time away from the conviction, the better. If the conviction was drug or alcohol related, the Judge may want to know that you have completed treatment and or attend twelve step meetings regularly. It is advisable to have character references that are willing to write a letter and perhaps attend a hearing on your behalf. If you attended therapy, it is advisable to obtain a letter from the therapist as well. If you volunteer then you will want a letter reflecting that.
If a Judge agrees to Expunge or set aside your criminal conviction, an order will be issued and mailed to you. You will want to present this Order to any facilities that hold your record (i.e. the Police, the local Department of Corrections).
The above is a general run-down of the expungement process. However, there are several extenuating circumstances and caveats in the process. Curve balls such as the conviction involving children, sexual offenses and juvenile crimes can change the process significantly. Consequently, it is in your benefit to contact an experienced attorney who specializes in expungement in Minnesota for a consultation.