How Expungement Laws in Minnesota Have Changed


Expungement laws have been hotly debated in many states, including Minnesota. These laws determine whether which criminal records can be sealed or erased from public view, giving individuals with past convictions a chance to move forward without the stigma of their criminal history. In recent years, there have been significant changes to expungement laws in Minnesota, causing confusion and concern among lawmakers and individuals seeking expungement.

The Old Expungement Law

Before diving into the recent changes over the years, it’s essential to understand the previous expungement law in Minnesota. Under this law, which took effect January 1, 2016, individuals with misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or specific low-level felony convictions were eligible for expungement, (sealing of a criminal record), after a waiting period of either two, three, or five years, depending on the offense’s conviction level. If an individual met all the eligibility requirements and received an expungement order from the court, their record would still be main retained, but it would be sealed from public view.

An expunged record may be opened, used, or exchanged between criminal justice agencies without a court order for the purposes of initiating, furthering, or completing a criminal investigation or prosecution or for sentencing purposes or providing probation or other correctional service or purposes of evaluating a prospective employee in a criminal justice agency.

Under the old, law if a person was convicted of, for example, a felony offense-which was later deemed to be a lesser conviction level, (gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor), for the purposes of expungement, the felony rules controlled whether a record could, or could not be statutorily expunged.

The New Expungement Law

In August 2023, the Minnesota expungement laws changed with the addition of new chapters to the law, the expansion of eligible offenses, and changes to the waiting time required before a criminal record would be eligible for consideration for expungement.

Some additions to the list of qualifying felony offenses eligible to be considered expanded to include 4th and 3rd degree felony drug possession. And, in some felony drug cases, a person may be eligible for an automatic expungement.

Now, under the new law, if a person was convicted of a felony which was sentenced as a gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor, the record can be considered for expungement as long as the person has not been convicted of a new crime for at least five years since discharge of the sentence for the crime.

Also, now under the new law, if the petitioner was convicted of a felony violation of an offense that is specifically listed in the statute, and has not been convicted of a new crime for at least four years since discharge of the sentence for the crime, the record can be considered for statutory expungement.

There have been many other important changes to the expungement law and it would be best to contact an experienced Expungement Lawyer in Minnesota to have your particular case reviewed to see if it would qualify for expungement.

The Impact of the Changes

The changes to expungement laws in Minnesota have significantly impacted past and future cases. Many individuals previously ineligible for expungement may now be able to clear their records, giving them better opportunities for employment, housing, and other aspects of life that may have been affected by their criminal history. In addition, the new law has also provided hope for those with multiple convictions, giving them a chance to start fresh and move forward with their lives.

The benefits of the new expungement law in Minnesota go beyond just giving individuals a clean slate. In some instances, the law also promotes rehabilitation and reintegration into society by allowing for the complete erasure expungement of criminal records that were previously ineligible. With an clean expunged record, individuals may have better access to education and employment opportunities, leading to economic stability and decreased recidivism rates. In addition, the changes in the law also aim to address racial disparities in the criminal justice system by providing equal opportunities for those who were unfairly impacted by past convictions.

Will Expungement Laws Ever Change in the Future?

The changes to expungement laws in Minnesota have been met with praise and criticism. Some advocates argue that the law still needs to go further in providing relief for those with past convictions. In contrast, others believe it may create loopholes for individuals to avoid accountability for their actions. As with any law, it is subject to change as society evolves and new issues arise. Lawmakers and individuals need to continue to monitor the impact of these expungement laws and make necessary adjustments in the future.

Expungement laws in Minnesota have undergone significant changes, expanding eligibility and providing opportunities for a clean slate for many individuals. These changes benefit those seeking expungement, promote rehabilitation, and address issues of racial disparity in the criminal justice system. As these laws continue to evolve, individuals need to understand their rights, and advocates need to stay informed and push for further changes that promote fairness and justice in our society. If you have questions regarding expungement in Minnesota, contact an experienced Expungement Lawyer in Minnesota.

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