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How to Expunge A Criminal Record in Minnesota

by | May 26, 2018 | Criminal Defense, Firm News, Minnesota

A criminal record is a major impediment to many of the things that ordinary Minnesotans take for granted. That includes basic items like a good job and a nice place to live.

Until a few years ago, Minnesota’s laws were very tough on people with criminal records. But in 2013, lawmakers passed a “ban the box” law. These laws prohibit job interview questions about a criminal background before a second interview. That way, proponents insist, a person at least gets a foot in the door.

In 2015, lawmakers reformed the state’s expunction laws. More people now have an opportunity to put their criminal pasts behind them. Of course, perhaps the best way to avoid these problems is not have a criminal conviction in the first place. In many situations, that may be an option even if the defendant is morally guilty of the charged offense.

Pretrial Diversion in Minnesota

These programs are available in many non-violent crimes, most notably theft and drug possession. Program eligibility varies, but these initiatives are almost always limited to first-time offenders.

From the early 1970s until 2017, Operation De Novo ran the pretrial diversion program in Hennepin County. The diversion programs currently available in Wright County are quite similar.  Typical program requirements included:

  • Oversight from a case manager, who was basically like a probation officer,
  • No further offenses during a period of probation,
  • Pay all restitution as ordered,
  • Complete a designated number of community service hours, and
  • Submit to random drug tests as directed.

If the defendant completes the program, the prosecutor drops the charges, and the case goes away. Having no criminal charges to deal with is one of the best ways to expunge a criminal record in Buffalo. Pretrial diversion, which could be in a specialized drug court, is often a very good option.

Stay of Adjudication in Minnesota

If pretrial diversion is unavailable for whatever reason, a stay of adjudication may be an option. This deferred disposition is available in drug crimes and most all other felonies and misdemeanors.

The defendant pleads guilty, but the judge does not enter a finding of guilt. Instead, the judge defers further proceedings for a few months or years, during which time the defendant is on probation. If the defendant successfully completes the probation, the case is dismissed.

A stay of adjudication automatically expunges a record in Buffalo, at least to some extent. Furthermore, there are usually no additional program requirements other than the normal terms of probation.

But the news is not all good. If the defendant violates the probation, the judge can sentence the defendant to any prison term up to and including the maximum under the law. Furthermore, a stay of adjudication does not affect the defendant’s arrest record. If a job application asks about a conviction, you can say “no.” But if the job application asks anything else, such as “Have you ever been arrested?” or “Have you ever been found guilty of a crime?” then you must answer “yes.”

Before accepting a stay of adjudication, thoroughly go over the pros and cons with your Buffalo attorney. Deferred disposition is a risky gamble. Sometimes it’s worth a try and sometimes it is not.

Formal Proceedings to Expunge a Record in Minnesota

In some states, it’s possible to completely delete a criminal record. But in Minnesota, it’s only possible to seal a criminal record from public view. The initial requirements are:

  • An eligible offense (most first-time drug possession offenses, theft-related offenses, juvenile offenses), or
  • An eligible disposition (finding of not guilty or case dismissed due to a lack of probable cause).

If your expungement petition depends on an eligible offense, it does not matter if you plead guilty or no contest.

Next, a waiting period applies depending on the facts of the case. The statutory waiting period is:

  • Two years if the underlying offense was a misdemeanor,
  • Four years for gross misdemeanors, and
  • Five years for felonies.

Most offenses, even DUIs, are expungable in Minnesota. About the only exceptions are most domestic violence-related offenses and sex crimes.

In many states, expungement is a given if the defendant meets the minimum qualifications. But in Minnesota, the judge has a great deal of discretion. Some factors to consider include:

  • The defendant’s risk to public safety, if any,
  • Severity of the offense,
  • The defendant’s criminal history,
  • Facts and circumstances of the crime,
  • The defendant’s efforts toward rehabilitation, and
  • Input from prosecutors and victims.

If your record is expunged, you may legally answer “no” when asked if you have been convicted of a crime. The record is still visible to court and police personnel, but not to members of the general public.


People with criminal records may be able to expunge their records. For a free consultation with an experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.