On the first of January, 2015, Minnesota’s legislature made expungements more meaningful and easier to obtain in a number of situations. The two overarching changes are: 1) that theexpungement statute specifically allows an expungement to seal executive branch records, and 2) there is a clear time-frame for when a conviction is considered old enough to be expunged, statutorily. The impact of these two changes is unfolding in courts across the state, but it is expected that both will increase the number of people who apply for expungements and the number of expungements that are granted.
Sealing of the executive branch records is a great addition to the expungement statute. Prior to the January 1, 2015 law going into effect, it was controversial whether the judicial branch could extend its power and seal executive branch records. There was a “separation of powers” issue that the Minnesota Supreme Court addressed in State v. M.D.T. The result in M.D.T., as rightfully stated in the Justice Anderson’s dissent, essentially provided no meaningful remedy for expungement seekers. Following M.D.T. there was a period of time where District Court judges could not seal records held in the executive branch save for very limited situations, such as an outright dismissal of a case. The legislature stepped up and expanded the scope of statutory expungements. Now, for any petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor that you were convicted of, once you have been off probation for two years, you at least have a chance at getting all your records relating to that case expunged, whether held in the judicial or executive branch. The time limit for gross misdemeanors is four years. For certain felonies, it’s five years. Most felonies, any not listed in subdivision 3 (5) found here, can only be expunged under the inherent authority of the court. These inherent authority expungements will only seal the court records and will not effect executive branch records.
While the two years for misdemeanors is beneficial it is not the only thing the judge will look at when considering your expungement petition. A judge will still conduct a balancing test of 12 factors to determine if an expungement is right in your case. This requires persuasion and a careful explanation of why those 12 factors and the law support your expungement request. For help crafting that argument or questions about the new expungement law, contact us today!