Most of us, as human beings, have regrets. We made decisions at some point in our lives that were impulsive or a product of our youth and we wish we could take those poorly deliberated decisions back. Perhaps alcohol or even drugs were involved; taking away our decision-making abilities entirely.
It is not unusual to have skeletons in the closet. Typically, we can leave mistakes in the past and move on; that is, unless your skeletons gave you a criminal record.
A criminal record can be embarrassing and prevent you from living the life that you want. You may not get that job because of the background check. You may not be able to leave the Country. The crime could be as simple as breaking a Court Order in an unhealthy relationship or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Bad things can happen to good people.
It is a little-known fact that, in many cases, a criminal record is eligible for expungement. Expungement or setting aside a criminal conviction is a lengthy and complicated process that is hardly ever “one size fits all”. Expungement is an incredibly subjective process. Not every Court, even in the same state, follows an identical process. For this reason, it is in one’s best interest to consult an attorney with experience in expungement.
In Minnesota, it is advisable to confer with the District Attorney’s Office in the locale of conviction, as in some cases; a formal request must be made to even file an expungement Petition.
The Petition for expungement should be made to the Court of conviction and may also have a list of required documentation attached. Most Court clerks will let you know what you need. It is imperative to ensure that the Petition explains in detail why a Judge should set aside your criminal conviction(s).
The Judge will want to essentially know that you have changed for the better and see evidence of such. The more time you have away from your last conviction; the higher the likelihood of the Judge granting your request. A hearing may be held in which you explain your case.
Sexual crimes and crimes that involve children have a very low likelihood of expungement. There may be extenuating circumstances in certain statutory rape cases and some child endangerment cases.
In all cases; evidence needs to be provided reflecting a radical change in behavior for the better. Letters from character witnesses such as an employer or counselor may bolster your case. In many cases, a psychological evaluation can be beneficial.
Once the Judge reviews your Petition, a hearing may be scheduled. You may be asked to present additional evidence or answer additional questions.
If a Judge decides to set aside your criminal conviction or expunge your criminal record then an Order will be issued by the Court. The Order does not automatically “erase” your record. You will have to give copies of the Order to the Department of Corrections and the arresting agency.
Expungement does not mean that parole or probation will end. The Order should also be given to these departments, if applicable, but the Order in itself does not ensure that such sentences will end.
Clearly, the expungement process is convoluted. It is also a relatively obscure area of law that most general practice attorneys know little about. To ensure that you are giving yourself the best chance possible; an attorney who specializes in expungement should be consulted. After all, this is your life.