State Expungement Policy

Introduction

Expungement imageThe social consequences of a criminal record can lead to the denial of an individual's right to civic participation. Life, subsequent to an arrest, is permanently altered. Regardless of whether an individual has been convicted, an arrest or citation typically persists on a criminal record. Therefore, even a person who has had the charges against them dropped may be subject to a degree of social ostracism and a de facto public finding of guilt. Some states permit individuals who are arrested, but not convicted, to expunge their arrest records. Others permit some convicts to apply for expungements after time has passed from the completion of their sentences.

Exemplary Law: Minnesota

In 2014, Minnesota updated its criminal records expungement laws. The new law expanded the availability of expungement and addressed novel issues such as the responsibility of data mining companies to observe expungements. Its strong provisions include:
  1. Convictions for misdemeanors and specific low-level, non violent felonies are eligible for expungement (Minn. Stat. § 609A.02);
  2. An individual whose record is expunged may bring an action against a "government entity that knowingly improperly opens or exchanges the expunged record under Minnesota's Data Practices Act (Minn. Stat. § 609A.04); and
  3. Requires private data mining companies to promptly delete a criminal record it knows to be sealed, expunged, or the subject of a pardon (Minn. Stat. § 332.70(3a)).

What's missing from Minnesota's Law?

Expungement remains an extraordinary remedy in Minnesota, "to be granted only upon clear and convincing evidence that it would yield a benefit to the petitioner commensurate with the disadvantages to the public and public safety of: (1) sealing the record; and (2) burdening the court and public authorities to issue, enforce, and monitor an expungement order." Minn. Stat. § 609A.03(5). This provision gives the courts the discretion to expunge some records while leaving others unsealed.

Additional Resources

Pending Legislation

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