In our July 24, 2015, post, we talked about the long-term, even lifelong consequences of a conviction for a sex crime and registration as a sex offender. A lot of opportunities are denied to registered sex offenders, including the opportunity to start over: Sex offenders are not eligible for expungement. Under current law, their criminal records cannot be sealed.
Many people with criminal records in Minnesota are eligible, but the process may not be as straightforward as they would like. If you or a loved one is hoping to wipe a criminal record clean, you should be aware of a few things before moving ahead.
First, and most importantly, an expungement does not erase the past. If your petition to the court is successful, your court record will be sealed. Law enforcement agencies will still have access, but the conviction or criminal charge will not come up on criminal background reports requested for employment, housing or professional licensure. Please note: Even if the charges were dismissed, criminal charges are part of your record and, without expungement, will be reported.
An expungement will not affect minor traffic offenses and other driving infractions that are tracked by the Department of Public Safety — speeding tickets, for example. However, a more serious crime involving driving, one that qualifies as a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony will appear on your criminal record and, so, will be covered by the expungement.
Expungement will also not cover housing actions, including evictions, either.
It’s important to understand, too, that the court may not grant a full expungement — that is, may not seal the records of the court and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, police departments, corrections department and other agencies. In some cases, the crime itself or the outcome may not qualify. In others, it may be that not enough time has passed since the charge or conviction. If a full expungement is not possible, the court may still seal the court record.
Without a full expungement, any member of the public has access to information maintained by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, police departments and similar agencies. That means that potential employers, landlords and anyone else will be able to view both criminal charges and criminal convictions.
There are more issues to be addressed, more contingencies and conditions to consider. If you are interested in pursuing expungement, you should consider contacting an attorney.