Being accused of a crime will undoubtedly have an impact on your life. Unfortunately, many defendants continue to feel the effects of these accusations long after their cases have been resolved. The law office of Sheridan & Dulas, P.A. has an extensive history of successfully representing those accused of crimes throughout all stages of the trial and appeal process. Despite that success, many will still struggle to find employment or housing based on their journey through the criminal justice system. In the past, those with criminal records were able to have their records sealed in very limited circumstances through a process known as expungement. Despite the availability of this remedy, few qualified, and even fewer found it to be a meaningful remedy. Under the prior law, a judge could order that your criminal record be sealed but she could not order the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) or other executive agencies to seal the records. That meant that despite a "successful" expungement, there were agencies that retained records of criminal convictions. To make matters worse, the BCA is the organization who many employers and landlords reach out to when conducting a background check on an individual. This all changed with Minnesota's new Second Chance Law that went into effect on January 1, 2015. This new law provides individuals with three significant benefits that were unavailable before. First, the law allows for expungements to be granted in a larger number of cases. Second, individuals have access to a meaningful expungement. Third, some may even be able to have their records sealed in an expedited fashion. Cases Eligible for Expungement Under Minnesota's new Second Chance Law, you may be eligible to have your record sealed if any of the following are true of your case:
- Your case was dismissed or you were acquitted of all charges;
- You were sentenced under a stay of adjudication and you have not committed a crime within one year of the completion of that sentence;
- You were convicted of a petty misdemeanor or a misdemeanor offense and you have not committed a crime within two years of the completion of that sentence;
- You were convicted of a gross misdemeanor offense and you have not committed a crime within four years of the completion of that sentence;
- You were convicted of a certain non-violent felony offense and you have not committed a crime within five years of the completion of that sentence.
If your case falls within any of these categories and the need to have your record sealed outweighs any public safety concerns, you may qualify to have your record sealed. A More Meaningful Expungement For many, before 2015, expungements were as meaningless as they were rare. The court could seal your record, but the agencies that mattered most continue to retain and disclose them. It was not uncommon for an individual with a successful expungement to still be denied employment or housing based on the "sealed" record. The new expungement law changes that. Now, executive agencies, including the BCA, are required to seal the records upon order from the court. This means that more Minnesotans have access to meaningful expungements as opposed to the hollow victories that resulted from a "successful" expungement before 2015. In fact, the new law allows you to sue any government entity who knowingly discloses your criminal record after that record has been expunged. Expedited Process Of particular interest to many who received a favorable outcome in their criminal case, who were sentenced under a stay of adjudication, or who entered a diversion program, the new law allows individuals to avoid filing a petition when the prosecution simply agrees to the expungement. This is where it is beneficial to hire an attorney who maintains a good working relationship with attorneys for the state. Here, at Sheridan & Dulas, P.A., we have already been successful in reaching an agreement with the prosecution to expunge criminal records. Do not let your criminal record prevent you from getting a job or finding housing. If you are interested in learning how you can try to have your criminal record sealed, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with Steve.