Sealing Criminal Records to Enhance Justice
According to the FBI, nearly one in three adults in America has a criminal record. Long after people have atoned for the harm they caused and fulfilled their obligations to the justice system, criminal records and the collateral consequences that follow serve as barriers to jobs, housing, education and more, preventing people from serving as productive members of our community. Studies have shown very few people who are eligible to seal their records successfully apply, but among those whose records are sealed, very few commit new crimes and, on average, they experience a significant increase in wages and employment within the next two years.
Is your criminal record a barrier in your life?
If you have a criminal record for an offense that was prosecuted by the Blue Earth County Attorney’s Office, we can help you determine if you qualify for expungement. If you qualify, we can help you get your record sealed by the Court at no cost to you.
Expungement is the legal process of sealing a criminal record. Sealing a criminal record can make it easier for you to obtain housing, get a job and certain types of job-related licenses.
What criminal records can be sealed?
Eligibility is limited to offenses that appear in the Minnesota Expungement Statute. Below are some of the most common eligible offenses:
- Fifth degree drug possession or sale
- Receiving stolen property
- Damage to property
- Forgery crimes
- Issuing a dishonored check
- Financial transaction card fraud
- Mail theft
Most criminal records have a waiting period before the Court can grant an expungement. In order to qualify, you must remain crime-free during the waiting period. In most cases, the waiting period starts when you are discharged from probation. A new offense can extend the waiting period or disqualify you from eligibility.
The waiting period can vary from zero to five years or more. For example, if you received a stay of adjudication or participated in diversion, you may be eligible one year after completing your agreed-upon terms. If your entire felony case was dismissed, or you were acquitted by the Court or a jury, you may be eligible without a waiting period.
How do I apply to have my criminal record sealed?
Apply using the (START MY APPLICATION) link below. The information you provide will be used to determine if you qualify. If you do qualify, we will contact you to request additional information necessary to seal your record. If you do not qualify, we will contact you to explain why you are not currently eligible.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is an expungement?
Under Minnesota law, expungement means the sealing of a criminal record so it is not publicly available. Only a District Court Judge can order a criminal record sealed. An expungement order issued by a Judge seals the criminal record and prohibits the Court and state agencies that hold criminal records from disclosing, acknowledging, or opening the criminal record except under court order as permitted by law.
2. Are my criminal records destroyed or erased by an expungement order?
No. Expungement will only seal your criminal record. Your criminal record will still exist under seal. An expunged criminal record will not be accessible to the public.
3. Who can see my criminal record after it’s expunged and sealed?
Your expunged and sealed criminal record can still be accessed by the Court, prosecutors, and law enforcement agencies including police, FBI, immigration, and other agencies in a criminal investigation, prosecution, or for sentencing and probation purposes. Your sealed criminal record can also be accessed by criminal justice agencies and other state agencies if you apply for certain jobs or apply for types of occupational licenses.
4. Can the state use ae sealed criminal record as a prior offense when charging or sentencing a new offense?
Yes. Many criminal offenses are more serious, or enhanced, if you have prior offenses of the same type. For example, Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is an offense where the penalties become more serious if you have prior DWI offenses. When the law permits, a sealed criminal record can be used to enhance the penalties for new offenses.
5. Do I have to pay to seal my criminal record?
If you apply through the Blue Earth County Attorney's Office, you do not have to pay the $300 filing fee to the Court. If you apply by preparing and filing a Petition for Expungement directly with the Court, you will have to pay a $300 filing fee for each offense or ask the Court to waive this fee based on your income.
6. Do I need to file anything with the Court?
If you apply through the Blue Earth County Attorney's Office and you qualify for expungement, you do not have to file any paperwork with the Court. If you seek expungement on your own, you must file a Petition for Expungement with the Court and pay a filing fee.
7. Will I need to appear in court for my record to be sealed?
No. If your criminal record is eligible, the Blue Earth County Attorney's Office will request an expungement from the Court. You will not have to appear in court to seal your record.
8. How do I find out if I am eligible?
Fill out the online application. Once you apply, the Blue Earth County Attorney's Office will review your case and determine if you're eligible to seal your criminal record. If you are eligible, we will request additional information to complete the expungement process.
9. How will I know if my application is approved?
After you apply, we will analyze your criminal record and determine if you are eligible for expungement. If you are eligible, we will contact you for additional information to complete your expungement. If you are not eligible, we will contact you to explain why you are not eligible for expungement.
10. How will I know when my records are sealed?
When the Court issues an expungement order, a copy will be sent to the mailing address in your application. This is proof that your records have been expunged and are now sealed.
11. Can my application be denied?
Yes. Your application can be denied by the Blue Earth County Attorney's Office or by the Court.
12. Why might my application be denied?
- Your offense is not eligible under the Minnesota expungement law.
- Not enough time has passed since you were discharged from probation. In some cases, you may be eligible in the future after the waiting period has ended.
- You have new crimes or a serious criminal history.
We will carefully consider the factors outlined in the Minnesota expungement law to determine if sealing your record is appropriate. These factors include the nature and seriousness of the offense, the length of time since the offense occurred, the steps taken towards rehabilitation following the offense, any aggravating or mitigating factors, your participation in the offense, your criminal history, the effect that the criminal record has on your ability to obtain employment, housing and other necessities of life.
13. What can I do if my application is denied or I have more questions?
We encourage you to seek community-based legal assistance if your application is denied or if you have other questions about the law or legal process.