Contrary to popular myth, the state of Minnesota does not automatically expunge juvenile records when the defendant turns 18 or even 21. These records stay on the books forever unless a Hutchinson, MN criminal lawyer expunges them.
Juvenile record expungement is not automatic, and it is not particularly easy either. There is no presumption in Minnesota’s expungement law which states that defendants are entitled to relief if they qualify.
Expungement may not be simple, but it is often necessary. Criminal convictions haunt kids for the rest of their lives. Over time, extenuating circumstances, like a bad decision or bad friends, fade into obscurity. The criminal record is the only thing remaining. These records often make it impossible to qualify for student aid. They create other professional, vocational, and life obstacles as well.
The law may not contain a presumption in favor of expungement, but at least the basic qualifications are rather broad. Generally, juvenile expungement is always available if:
- The infraction would not have been a felony in adult court, and
- The offender was under 16 at the time the offense was committed (not at the time the case went to court).
Hutchinson, MN criminal lawyers may be able to obtain juvenile record expungement in other situations as well. For example, if the offense could have been charged as a felony or misdemeanor, expungement might still be available.
Furthermore, the defendant must have received a favorable disposition at either the trial or appellate level. Some of these dispositions include:
- Not Guilty: We are not talking about moral guilt. We are talking about legal guilt. There is a difference. Many times, the defendant is morally guilty, but prosecutors do not have enough evidence to convict the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Dismissal of Charges: The law is a bit unclear as to whether the dismissal must be for a substantive reason, such as a lack of evidence, or it can be for any reason, such as completion of a pretrial diversion program. Either kind of dismissal gets the defendant’s foot in the expungement door. Generally, a Hutchinson, MN criminal lawyer’s advocacy skills can do the rest.
- Executive Pardon: This relief is not as hard to get as many people think. Former President Barack Obama granted almost two thousand pardons during his eight years in office. That number includes the 330 pardons he granted on his last full day in office.
When it comes to juvenile expungements, meeting the basic qualifications is only part of the story. Judges have considerable discretion to grant or deny relief in these cases.
How Hutchinson, MN Criminal Lawyers Obtain Juvenile Expungements in Court
Once the matter goes to the judge, there are eight different factors to consider:
- Defendant’s age and background at the time s/he committed the offense,
- Vulnerability and age of any crime victim,
- Mitigating or aggravating circumstances the court should consider,
- Defendant’s prior criminal history, if any,
- Level of participation and planning (i.e. was the defendant mostly willing or mostly forced into the act),
- Defendant’s record during court supervision, if applicable, such as the defendant’s bail bond record,
- Circumstances which indicate the defendant could be fully rehabilitated, and
- Benefit expungement would give the petitioner.
That last bullet point is often the big one. As mentioned, juvenile criminal records are a significant impediment. Even if the defendants have nothing else going for them, they can play this card.
Deferred Disposition, Pretrial Diversion, and Other Informal Expungements
Deferred adjudication/deferred disposition defendants plead guilty before the judge and are placed on probation. After they complete probation, assuming they have no major black marks, the judge dismisses the case. As for pretrial diversion, if the defendant jumps through a few hoops before trial, such as completing a community service requirement, prosecutors dismiss the case before it goes to the judge.
In both these situations, and other similar environments, the defendant has no conviction record, but the arrest record remains.
If the judge does not grant the expungement request, or if the defendant is not eligible in the first place, informal expunction could still turn out okay. Many employers and others only care about conviction records. If the arrest does come up, saying something like “I hired a Hutchinson, MN criminal lawyer and the lawyer took care of it” usually ends these inquiries.
Connect with a Dedicated Attorney
Juvenile convictions do not necessarily stay on the books forever. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN criminal lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have several offices in the area.