Frequently Asked Questions on Sealing Criminal Records
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 or as permitted by law.
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.
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 job-related licenses.
Can the state use a 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.
Do I have to pay to get an expungement of my criminal record?
If you apply through the Ramsey 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.
Do I need to file anything with the Court?
If you apply through the Ramsey 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.
Will I need to appear in court for my record to be sealed?
No. If your criminal record is eligible, the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office will request an expungement from the Court. You will not have to appear in court to seal your record.
How do I find out if I am eligible?
Fill out the online application. Once you apply, we will review your case. If it appears you are eligible, we will request additional information to help determine whether your record could be sealed. If not, we will contact you to explain why.
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.
Can my application be denied?
Yes. Your application can be denied by the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office or by the Court.
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.
If we deny your application for any reason, we will explain why.
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.
Community-based help to seal your criminal record
- Volunteer Lawyers Network
- Mitchell-Hamline Law School Re-Entry Clinic
- Neighborhood Justice Center
- Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services
- Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota
- Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota
Do-it-yourself statewide resources
- Ramsey County Law Library - Expungement Forms Clinic
- Statewide Minnesota Judicial Branch Self-Help Centers