Old Criminal Records Can Be "Off The Record"

December 19, 2009  |  Jon P. Erickson

Old Criminal Records Can Be “Off the Record”
By Jon P. Erickson
If you or someone you know has an old criminal record, you should be aware that lost civil rights can be restored by pursuing either a “Pardon Extraordinaires” or an “expungement” of the arrest record.
When you consult an attorney about clearing up old criminal records, the first step in the process is identifying what occurred in the past. If you have an old criminal conviction, then the law allows for “Pardon Extraordinaires”. If you were arrested but the charges were dismissed or you were found “not guilty”, then you might be able to pursue an “expungement” of your arrest record. Of course, having an attorney involved at the time of your arrest, even if it is just a traffic misdemeanor, may help set up a situation that might result in making an expungement or pardon easier to get.
Individuals seeking to clear past criminal records have a variety of reasons. Some want to restore their right to possess a firearm, such as a shotgun for hunting. Others want to have fingerprints and booking photos sealed to prevent future embarrassment. Lastly, having the Board of Pardons restore an individual’s “good name” may help in preventing problems in searching employment or housing.
In Minnesota, anyone arrested for all felonies and many misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors must be booked (photographed and fingerprinted). The law is mandatory and there is nothing an attorney can do to prevent that process. In some cases, if charges are ultimately dismissed, dropped, diverted or an individual is found “not guilty”, then mandatory criminal booking items may be sealed or destroyed.
Expungement is the legal process necessary to seal the materials resulting from the arrest process, including computer files and sometimes even in the case of convictions.
The legal procedure involves filing a motion and affidavits with the appropriate court and, ultimately, a court hearing.
When seeking a pardon, an individual appears before the Board of Pardons, which consists of the Governor, the Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court and the Minnesota Attorney General, to request “forgiveness” of past behavior that resulted in a criminal conviction. This conviction can include a traffic misdemeanor, domestic assaults and/or gross misdemeanors and felonies!
The process involves filing an application with the Board of Pardons and, eventually, appearing before the Board. The hearing is a public hearing and all documents filed with the application become public documents.
The application process involves notifying the sentencing judge, the prosecuting attorney, police departments, and any and all victims. It also includes publishing the Notice of Application in a newspaper in the county where the conviction occurred.
Granted pardons become part of the official record. Pardons no longer result in having your criminal record sealed or destroyed but it does result in the restoration of any and all civil rights.
If you have any questions about expungement or pardons, please call or e-mail BGS; either Jon Erickson at (763) 783-5145, e-mail jerickson@bgs.com or Russ Crowder at (763) 783-5143, e-mail rcrowder@bgs.com.