Thoughts On Minnesota’s Expungement Law


The recently introduced expungement legislation in the state of Minnesota has provided an opportunity to take advantage of the immense benefits that those with previous criminal records receive when their convictions are expunged. Although this legislation has been operational for a year, it still has ambiguities that need to be clarified. Minnesota’s appellate courts have not offered certain clarifications as of early 2016.

The most remarkable uncertainty arises when a defendant is sentenced to a stay of execution for a felony. Under the felony expungement statute, a petitioner will be qualified for expungement only if they were convicted or received a stayed verdict after committing a felony or a crime that is listed in the statute. Under the misdemeanor expungement statute, a petitioner is qualified for expungement if they were sentenced to or received a stayed verdict for a misdemeanor (lesser) crime. This means that while all misdemeanor offenses are eligible for expungement, only offenses that have been specifically enumerated in the statutes are eligible for expungement in the case of felony offenses.

If a defendant successfully completes the one year that is required for a state of imposition to be complete, their conviction will be treated like a misdemeanor, even if they had been sentenced for a felony offense. In such a case, a person may have received a stayed ruling for a felony and was at the same time effectively convicted of a misdemeanor. Whether the sentence is treated as a felony crime or a misdemeanor for expungement purposes is significant because of the following two reasons. It will determine the time a person must wait before applying for expungement. In addition, It will dictate whether one is eligible for expungement or not in situations where one received a stayed sentence for committing a felony that is not listed in the statutes and therefore is not eligible for expungement.

If successfully completed stays of imposition for felonies are treated as misdemeanor offenses for expungement reasons, this is clearly much more beneficial to the petitioners seeking expungement of their criminal records.

Either interpretation is debatable. Unsurprisingly, the Minnesota Criminal Bureau (BCA) states that a stay of imposition for a felony should remain as such and should not be treated as a misdemeanor sentence. In a judicial update by Alan Pendleton, the BCA insists that it will maintain that conviction until a court order or appellate issues a contrary decision.

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