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What is expungement?

You know, when clients and see me and ask me about an expungement it’s a topic that really I think excites the public and potential clients. An expungement is a motion or a request but it’s a motion typically drafted by an attorney with some experience asking the court to expunge or what’s commonly known as seal a particular crime or offense. Now Minnesota just enacted a new statute in 2015 that broadens and gives more power to judges to seal or expunge records not only held by the court but also records retained and held by other agencies. For instance, the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the various county sheriff’s, the prosecutor’s office, even the police. There are about 15, 16 different agencies, jurisdictions, entities, law enforcement entities that jealously want to hold on to those records.

So when a client comes and sees me he or she is asking me number one, can my charge, can my case be expunged and what are the entities that hold these particular records? Well again, they’re numerous, whether a case can be expunged really depends upon how the case was resolved, what was the nature of the original charge, and how long ago was the case resolved? So it’s the type of case, when it was resolved, and the nature of the charge those are the three most important things. Followed by whether the person has satisfactorily rehabilitated himself or herself and whether they’ll be a benefit to the defendant, to the petitioner with respect to sealing this particular record or expunging it versus the public’s right to know or the public’s safety, so it’s a balancing test.

But you need to retain and experienced expungement attorney to do this kind of work. It’s not just simply a matter of filling forms and then handing it to the judge the right parties have to be served, they have to be served correctly and the appropriate arguments have to be made if you want to successfully expunge a record.

Now, alternatively, there’s also what’s called a sealing motion. And a sealing motion is where you try to seal the court records for crimes or offenses that are not subject to or you that you can’t get an expungement for. It’s not as good as an expungement but in some cases, it could be just as effective. And again, depending on the nature of the crime and when it took place a client might be eligible for a sealing motion as opposed to an expungement motion.

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