EXPUNGEMENT: HOW YOU MAY SEAL YOUR CRIMINAL RECORD

What Is Expungement, And How Can It Help Me? Expungement is the process of sealing your criminal record. People make mistakes, but should those mistakes brand them for life on their criminal record? Not always. People change, move on, and learn from their mistakes. But unless your criminal record is expunged, employers performing a background check will assume that if you have a criminal record, then you are not worth hiring. Nowadays the internet makes information easily accessible, and criminal records are available for the entire world to see. Expungement can help prevent this.

Mistakes from long ago are standing in the way of people with convictions getting jobs, housing, state licenses, school admission, bank loans and limits political and community involvement. With a poor economy and a housing crisis, people now, more than ever need to present themselves in the best way possible. Record of an arrest, criminal charges, or conviction could be the difference in an employer, landlord, or bank taking a chance on you. There are ways to wipe away the mistakes of the past to stay competitive in this ever-changing job and housing market. If you have experienced problems getting a job, housing, state licensing, or loan because of a prior criminal conviction, you should consider getting your record sealed through an expungement.

Are Certain Convictions or Court Outcomes Treated Differently Than Others? Yes.The law separates expungement eligibility requirements into several categories:

  1. conviction as a result of finding of guilt at trial or a plea of guilty;
  2. criminal proceedings not resulting in a conviction;
  3. certain controlled substance offenses; or
  4. juveniles prosecuted as adults.

Conviction

If you plead guilty to a crime or if you are found guilty at trial, a permanent criminal record is established. Through expungement proceedings, the court can seal some or all of those records, so they are not accessible to the public.

Criminal Proceedings Not Resulting in a Conviction:

Did you know that if you were arrested but never charged, or if you were even found not guilty, that the records still exist and anyone doing a background check on you can still find out about it? Fortunately, Minnesota law allows expungement of criminal records when a case is resolved "in favor" of the defendant.

Some examples of "criminal proceedings not resulting in a conviction" include:

  1. A person was arrested and never charged. Many people don't realize that even though they were never charged, arrest records exist and employers, lenders, etc. can find them when searching an employee or applicant's background.
  1. A person is charged but the charges are later completely dismissed.Records still exist regarding the arrest, investigation, original charges, court filings, and dates of dismissal. Although the case was ultimately dismissed, the records of arrest can potentially influence employees and applicants.
  1. Found Not Guilty (Acquitted): A person is charged, prosecuted, and found not guilty (acquitted) at trial. Again, records exist regarding every part of the allegations, arrest, indictment, and criminal proceedings.
  1. Continuance for Dismissal. A negotiation is worked out with the prosecutor to continue the case for a period of time (typically one (1) year) and if the defendant pays a fine and has no similar offenses, the case is dismissed. As long as the defendant followed all requirements and the one year has passed, the case is considered to have been resolved "in the defendant's favor."

Certain Drug / Controlled Substance Offenses.

Sometimes a case including allegations of drug possession or sale is resolved in a fashion that will dismiss the case if certain requirements and a probationary period are completed. This is often called a "Stay of Adjudication," "Continuance for Dismissal," or "Diversion." As long as requirements have been fulfilled and the case dismissed, the person is considered eligible for an expungement.

Juveniles Prosecuted as Adults:

What we're talking about is when a person is under 18 at the time the crime was committed, but is certified as an adult and convicted. Once released from probation the person is eligible to request an expungement. Contrary to popular belief, the records are not automatically sealed when the juvenile turns 18.

Criminal cases result in many different scenarios and can be confusing. At Ryan Pacyga Criminal Defense, P.A., we can access your Minnesota Court Record and figure out which category you fall into and whether you are eligible. Please call us at 612-339-5844 with questions.

What Agencies Have Record Of My Arrest? People are often shocked when they find out how many government agencies have record of their contact with police, investigation, arrest, charges, court process, and conviction (if applicable). The records are divided into two government bodies: (1) Judicial Branch (court) and (2) Executive Branch (crime lab, local and state police departments, Attorney General, County Attorney, and more). Additionally, private data collection companies collect and sell this information to the public through paid criminal background checks.Information about your incident is only a click away for employer, landlords, admissions departments, and licensing boards.

How Does The Expungement Process Work? The expungement process will take approximately four to six months start to finish. A formal motion to the court must be drafted (including all legally required sections). The motion must then be served on each government agency who has a record regarding the incident. If even one agency is missed, the motion can be denied by the court. Properly serving each agency is extremely important. After the motion is properly served, a hearing date is set. By law, the hearing can be not less than 60 days from the date of service. On the day of the hearing, the attorney for the defendant (called Petitioner) argues to the court why the court should grant the expungement request and seal any records regarding the incident / arrest / conviction.

After the hearing, the judge will issue an order granting or denying the expungement motion. Regardless of the decision, the order does not go into effect for 60 days. If the motion is granted, records are sealed after 60 days. If the order is denied, the defendant has 60 days to appeal the court's decision

Do I Need A Lawyer To Do This? Minnesota law regarding expungement motions is constantly changing. An experienced expungement attorney, current on the law, may significantly increase the chances a motion will be granted. Of course, some expungement requests are easier than others. The most difficult arise when requesting records of a conviction to be sealed. However, it is still possible. At Ryan Pacyga Criminal Defense, we stay current on the expungement caselaw and we have had extraordinary success arguing client's expungement motions and getting the expungement granted, even in unlikely cases.

No one wants a criminal record and not everyone who has been charged or convicted of a criminal offense needs to live with it on their permanent record. Expungement provides a way to put the past IN THE PAST. If a criminal record is interfering with your ability to get a job, housing, licensing, or loan you should consider expungement.

Remember, the information above is just a basic summary of what you can expect if considering an expungement. There are too many fact-specific variables to cover every situation in one document. Therefore, this information should not be relied upon for legal advice. The best thing you can do to find out if expungement is right for you is to hire an experienced expungement attorney. If you have further questions, feel free to call Ryan Pacyga Criminal Defense at 612-339-5844 for a free consultation, or visit our website at www.arrestedmn.com.