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Can a Buffalo Criminal Lawyer Erase My Criminal Past?

by | Nov 20, 2018 | Buffalo, Criminal Defense, Firm News

In the vast panoply of fatalistic country music songs, Willie Nelson’s Nothin’ I Can Do About It Now may be one of the best ones. However, the red-headed stranger’s assessment of the ability to change the past is a bit off. True, no one can go back in time and relive their lives. But thanks to a 2015 law, a Buffalo criminal lawyer may be able to completely, or at least partially, erase your criminal past.

Both expungement and sealing have a number of advantages. A criminal past can make it difficult to pursue certain occupations. Additionally, Minnseota’s ban the box law only applies to public employees. Private employers may refuse to grant interviews based solely on criminal records. Finally, most offenses are crimes of moral turpitude. CMTs can have significant consequences in many areas of life.

Qualifying for Expungement

Many times, the collateral consequences of a criminal offense are much worse than the direct consequences. Shoplifting is a good example. A good Buffalo criminal lawyer can probably arrange for a sentence that features no jail time and limited court supervision. But most people consider shoplifting to be a crime of moral turpitude. Long after the court supervision is over and the defendant’s slate is clean, as far as Wright County courts are concerned, the conviction could cause serious problems.

Minnesota lawmakers recognized this reality, which is one reason they revised Section 609A.02 in 2015. Now, the following situations qualify for full record expungement:

  • Some Drug Possession Cases: Just like alcoholism is no defense to DUI, drug addiction is no defense to drug possession. But there is a difference between these two things. Alcoholics can choose to drive or not, but drug addicts must have drugs. So, the legislature made an accommodation. Addiction is still not a defense to possession, but it can be a basis for expungement.
  • Juvenile Crimes in Adult Court: Minnesota law already expunges most juvenile records once the offenders turn eighteen. This expansion is just the next step. Bear in mind that not all juvenile crimes are expungeable. A Buffalo criminal defense lawyer must still convince the judge that expungement is appropriate.
  • Dismissals or Not Guilty Findings: Significantly, the defendant need not be morally innocent. There’s a difference between “not guilty” and “innocent.” Not guilty really means not proved. On a similar note, there are many different types of pretrial dismissals. Sometimes the prosecutor runs out of time to file charges, sometimes the prosecutor dismisses charges because s/he has more important things to do, and sometimes there was no probable cause.
  • Property Crime Convictions: The statute specifies some convictions that are eligible for expungement. These offenses include theft, bribery, mortgage fraud, cattle rustlin’ and a number of other crimes. Almost all of them are crimes of moral turpitude.

If your disposition does not qualify for expungement, you may qualify for record sealing. Sealed records are no longer publically available, but they do remain in the law enforcement and judicial database. A few other government agencies, such as licensing agencies, may also be able to access sealed records.

How a Buffalo Criminal Lawyer Expunges Records

The qualifications outlined above are only minimum qualifications. There are some other matters to consider as well.

In some areas, individual defendants hold almost all the cards. For example, the trial judge is much more likely to grant expungement if the defendant has not been arrested or charged with another crime during the statutory waiting period. Depending on the type of offense, that waiting period could be between one and five years.

The judge determines other factors. Defendants can obviously control their behavior and they can improve their chances by partnering with a good Buffalo criminal lawyer. But the final decision is up to the judge. SOme factors they can consider include:

  • Nature of the offense,
  • Risk to the public, if any,
  • Amount of time that’s passed since the arrest,
  • Purpose for expungement,
  • Facts and circumstances of the crime,
  • Defendant’s ties to the community,
  • Feedback from prosecutors and/or victims, and
  • Any other factor the judge considers relevant.

As a practical matter, this order usually has little or no effect. Typically, a Buffalo criminal lawyer must forward the order to all affected agencies and instruct them to act accordingly.

A quick note about convictions and deportations. Even if you plead no contest and receive deferred adjudication, ICE may still deport you. The same thing applies if you have a conviction expunged or sealed at a later date. Typically, the Immigration and Naturalization Act authorizes deportation for serious felonies and crimes of moral turpitude.

Connect with Experienced Attorneys

A one-time mistake may not haunt you forever. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo criminal lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. After-hours visits are available.