Category: Expungement

Expungements

Sometimes people make poor decisions. What if you make one very poor choice, or if you make a choice you believe is the only choice you have to make at the time, but it turns out to be illegal? That choice may effect your life for years if you are convicted of a crime. What if you turn your life around, or there are circumstances about the decision you made that can be rectified with some sort of rehabilitation? What if the Judge who heard your case believes that you deserve a second chance after you have paid your debt to the community? If that conviction can’t be sealed, the information, especially in today’s cyber world, will haunt you when you apply for student loans, apply for schooling, apply for housing, or try to find work. Even if the Court seals its records, the law as it is now states that the Court can’t tell the executive branch – law enforcement – to seal their records. Even if it is in everyone’s best interests that the records be sealed. Thankfully, Rep. John Lesch, D – St. Paul, has drafted a bill that would allow the Courts to determine when the records should be sealed, even in the executive branch. Sealing does not mean erasing. The information would simply not be public.

For example, suppose a high school senior, who is 18, gets arrested with 33 grams of marijuana in his possession. That is a felony. Just over one ounce. Suppose this 18 year old is a straight A student and for all other discussions is a great kid. The arrest records fall under the executive branch, law enforcement. Even if the prosecutor offers to resolve the case in a manner that will ultimately result in the matter being dismissed, the current law only allows for the court records to be sealed. The arrest records and police reports will still be open and available through the executive branch. That is why employment agencies, housing agencies and others simply take a trip to the BCA, the local Sheriff’s Department or the Police Department to obtain records on people even if the case was dismissed.

This bill, if it passes, should allow the Court to properly seal all the records that hinder a person’s ability to be successful after they have paid their debt to the community for their wrongdoing. Click here to read an article about the process.

Expungement and Seperation of Powers

Expungement case decided by Supreme Court Yesterday

D I S S E N T
ANDERSON, Paul H., Justice (dissenting).

Jean Valjean: But this is common humanity! Are you a machine?

Inspector Javert: I am an officer of the law doing my duty. I have no
choice in the matter. It makes no difference what I think or feel or want. It
has nothing to do with me—nothing! Can’t you see that?

Les Misérables.

Yesterday, the Minnesota Supreme Court Ruled that Court does not have inherent authority to expunge records not identified by statute of a Defendant held by the executive. The Majority’s Opinion and subsequent Concurring Opinion rely upon a straight forward separation of powers argument. This means that Court does not have the inherent authority to seal law enforcement records for an individual unless identified by statute, even though the conviction or legal proceedings were first generated by the Judicial Branch. In order for the Court to be able to seal, or expunge, executive branch records, a statute must be created by the legislative branch allowing for such action.

The entire Opinion is 52 pages long and includes a 30 Page Dissent. The Dissent begins with the quote form Les Miserables above. The link to the complete opinion is below.

http://www.mncourts.gov/opinions/sc/current/OPA111285-0522.pdf

How false accusations and wrongful convictions continue to effect people

The State of Minnesota Supreme Court is currently considering an expungement, or sealing of records case. In State v. M.D.T., the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed a district court’s order to seal executive branch records. The question is whether the Courts can seal, or expunge, a citizen’s records in law enforcement, the executive branch. If you have any questions about your case, please give me a call at 651-200-3484.  Below is an introduction to the article and a link to the entire article at the New York Times.
By JACK HEALY, New York Times, May 5, 2013;

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/06/us/wrongfully-convicted-find-their-record-haunts-them.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Wrongfully Convicted Often Find Their Record, Unexpunged, Haunts Them

Andres Gonzalez for The New York Times
Sabrina Butler, who was convicted and then exonerated in the death of her infant son, saw her record expunged 17 years after her release from prison.
By JACK HEALY, New York Times
Published: May 5, 2013
In Wisconsin, Audrey Edmunds served 11 years in prison in the shaking death of an infant girl for whom she had been baby-sitting. In 2008, a mountain of new medical evidence cast so much doubt on the case that a higher court overturned her conviction and set her free. Leaving prison, Ms. Edmunds hoped that would be the end of it.
Audrey Edmunds could not find work after her conviction in the death of a girl was overturned.
But a few months later, as she applied for a secretarial job with an office-supply company, her conviction for first-degree reckless homicide popped up in a background check. Sorry, she was told. She tried to get work with an airline, but heard a similar rejection.
“I hate it,” said Ms. Edmunds, 52, who now lives in northern Wisconsin. “They put us through enough to begin with. They don’t give us any assistance. I’m glad to be out, but there’s got to be more support. I don’t like having this awful nightmare of a cloud hanging over me.”
Across much of the country, sealing or clearing a criminal record after a wrongful conviction is a tangled and expensive process, advocates and former prisoners say. It can take years of appeals to courts and pleas to governors to wipe the slate clean. Even then, many felony convictions remain on federal databases and pop up during background checks or at traffic stops.
Aside from the practical challenges — a criminal record can impede big things like finding housing and employment, and smaller things like getting a hunting license — people who have been exonerated say they feel unfairly marked, branded with a scarlet letter from a justice system that should not have locked them up in the first place.