Can a Hutchinson, MN Criminal Lawyer Erase Juvenile Records?

Contrary to popular myth, the state of Minnesota does not automatically expunge juvenile records when the defendant turns 18 or even 21. These records stay on the books forever unless a Hutchinson, MN criminal lawyer expunges them.

Juvenile record expungement is not automatic, and it is not particularly easy either. There is no presumption in Minnesota’s expungement law which states that defendants are entitled to relief if they qualify.

Expungement may not be simple, but it is often necessary. Criminal convictions haunt kids for the rest of their lives. Over time, extenuating circumstances, like a bad decision or bad friends, fade into obscurity. The criminal record is the only thing remaining. These records often make it impossible to qualify for student aid. They create other professional, vocational, and life obstacles as well.

Expungement Basics

The law may not contain a presumption in favor of expungement, but at least the basic qualifications are rather broad. Generally, juvenile expungement is always available if:

  • The infraction would not have been a felony in adult court, and
  • The offender was under 16 at the time the offense was committed (not at the time the case went to court).

Hutchinson, MN criminal lawyers may be able to obtain juvenile record expungement in other situations as well. For example, if the offense could have been charged as a felony or misdemeanor, expungement might still be available.

Furthermore, the defendant must have received a favorable disposition at either the trial or appellate level. Some of these dispositions include:

  • Not Guilty: We are not talking about moral guilt. We are talking about legal guilt. There is a difference. Many times, the defendant is morally guilty, but prosecutors do not have enough evidence to convict the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Dismissal of Charges: The law is a bit unclear as to whether the dismissal must be for a substantive reason, such as a lack of evidence, or it can be for any reason, such as completion of a pretrial diversion program. Either kind of dismissal gets the defendant’s foot in the expungement door. Generally, a Hutchinson, MN criminal lawyer’s advocacy skills can do the rest.
  • Executive Pardon: This relief is not as hard to get as many people think. Former President Barack Obama granted almost two thousand pardons during his eight years in office. That number includes the 330 pardons he granted on his last full day in office.

When it comes to juvenile expungements, meeting the basic qualifications is only part of the story. Judges have considerable discretion to grant or deny relief in these cases.

How Hutchinson, MN Criminal Lawyers Obtain Juvenile Expungements in Court

Once the matter goes to the judge, there are eight different factors to consider:

  • Defendant’s age and background at the time s/he committed the offense,
  • Vulnerability and age of any crime victim,
  • Mitigating or aggravating circumstances the court should consider,
  • Defendant’s prior criminal history, if any,
  • Level of participation and planning (i.e. was the defendant mostly willing or mostly forced into the act),
  • Defendant’s record during court supervision, if applicable, such as the defendant’s bail bond record,
  • Circumstances which indicate the defendant could be fully rehabilitated, and
  • Benefit expungement would give the petitioner.

That last bullet point is often the big one. As mentioned, juvenile criminal records are a significant impediment. Even if the defendants have nothing else going for them, they can play this card.

Deferred Disposition, Pretrial Diversion, and Other Informal Expungements

Deferred adjudication/deferred disposition defendants plead guilty before the judge and are placed on probation. After they complete probation, assuming they have no major black marks, the judge dismisses the case. As for pretrial diversion, if the defendant jumps through a few hoops before trial, such as completing a community service requirement, prosecutors dismiss the case before it goes to the judge.

In both these situations, and other similar environments, the defendant has no conviction record, but the arrest record remains.

If the judge does not grant the expungement request, or if the defendant is not eligible in the first place, informal expunction could still turn out okay. Many employers and others only care about conviction records. If the arrest does come up, saying something like “I hired a Hutchinson, MN criminal lawyer and the lawyer took care of it” usually ends these inquiries.

Connect with a Dedicated Attorney

Juvenile convictions do not necessarily stay on the books forever. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN criminal lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have several offices in the area.

Can a Hutchinson, MN Criminal Defense Lawyer Expunge My Record If I Don’t Meet the Statuatory Requirements?

Fifteen years ago, the answer to this question was a resounding “no.” But then, in 2008, the Minnesota Supreme Court decided State v. SLH. This decision introduced the concept of inherent authority expunction. There are basically two big differences between statutory expungement under the Minnesota Statutes and inherent authority expungements.

Statutory expungement is a right. To assert a right, you simply have to ask for it. But inherent authority expungement is a privilege. Unless the defendant gives the judge a good reason for expungement, the judge probably will not do it. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, statutory expungement wipes out all judicial and law enforcement records. Inherent authority expungement only affects judicial records, at least in most cases.

An experienced Hutchinson, MN criminal defense lawyer can expunge your records if it is at all possible, and also maximize that expungement.

Have You Exhausted Other Options?

Inherent authority expungement is a last resort. But many people entertain this option before they have gone through all their statutory options. Significantly, very few people try to obtain an executive pardon, even though the process is easier than they think.

You do not need to make a big financial contribution to buy a pardon. Actually, that may be one of the worst things you can do. No governor wants to be accused of favoritism.

Instead, a Hutchinson, MN criminal defense lawyer simply needs to know how to ask. Every situation is different, but here are some general rules:

  • Know Where to Go: A pardon application addressed to the governor will go straight into the trash, and an application addressed to a junior assistant will never see the light of day either. A successful pardon application begins with knocking on the right door, and an experienced Hutchinson, MN criminal defense lawyer knows where to knock.
  • Admit Responsibility: Begin and end your application with a complete and unqualified admission of guilt. Your friends did not entice you and the devil did not make you do it.
  • Explain Extenuating Circumstances: The governor was not there and does not have the trial transcript. If appropriate, the prior obstacles narrative usually works well. For example, perhaps you have overcome a substance abuse problem.
  • Praise the System: If you served time in jail or prison, you had lots of time to think. If you were placed on probation, the court-ordered classes struck a chord with you.
  • Ask For What You Need: Unabashedly ask for a complete pardon. One of the fundamental rules of criminal law is that you never get anything unless you ask.

Pardons are even easier to obtain if you are no longer under court supervision. At that point, a gubernatorial pardon is basically just a rather meaningless gesture. It only has significance if the defendant uses the pardon to obtain statuatory expungement.

What is Inherent Authority?

Since the judge has absolute control over judicial records, it stands to reason that the judge should have the authority to purge these records in certain situations. The S.L.H. court offered practically no guidance in this area. The court simply stated that, under “appropriate circumstances,” judges could use their inherent authority to expunge judicial records.

That lack of guidance is actually a good thing. Appeals courts usually review lower court decisions like these on an abuse-of-discretion basis. With such a broad mandate from the Supreme Court, it is almost impossible for judges to abuse their discretion in these cases.

In other words, the court has almost absolute authority to purge judicial records. A Hutchinson, MN criminal defense lawyer just needs to give the judge a good reason to do so.

Why Do You Need Expungement?

In statutory proceedings, this question is relevant but not really controlling. The McLeod County judge just needs to hear a legitimate answer.

But in inherent authority expunction cases, this answer may mean everything. Generally, the defendant must offer a specific reason, such as:

  • Inability to pursue a certain professional occupation that the defendant is otherwise qualified to pursue,
  • Difficulty in finding a place to live (i.e. I tried to obtain a mortgage from this bank or rent from this company but my criminal conviction derailed my application), or
  • Inability to find a job that pays enough to support a family.

If you can articulate this reason for the judge, the judge is quite likely to approve your application, especially if the conviction is at least ten or fifteen years old.

Can a Hutchinson, MN Criminal Defense Lawyer Expand Inherent Authority?

In principle, inherent authority expunctions are limited to judicial records. However, the Supreme Court has yet to directly rule on this issue. Therefore, in a few cases, there may be a workaround.

For example, a dismissal may expand inherent authority to executive records, even if the offense is on the prohibited list. If the court dismisses the case, most defendants reasonably believe that they will suffer no ill effects from the criminal proceedings.

Certain juvenile cases may fall into this area as well. Additionally, if the defendant was discharged at least fifteen years ago and the defendant has taken a number of self-improvement steps, expansion may be available.

Reach Out to Dedicated Attorneys

An attorney’s job does not end when the judge’s gavel falls, because there may still be remedies available. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN criminal defense lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.

Informal and Formal Felony Expunctions in MN

Many times, a permanent criminal record is the worst outcome in a criminal case. Even in a felony, probation and other punishments are soon forgotten. But criminal records never go away. Decades later, they affect job searches, professional career choices, family law proceedings, and other important matters.

Fortunately, in 2015, the landscape changed dramatically. Hutchinson felony lawyers now have many more opportunities to erase a criminal past, so more people can truly move on with their lives.

Under this new law, many former felons can have their records sealed between two and five years after they complete their sentences. The law also had a trickle-down effect which many people did not anticipate at the time. Prosecutors are more willing to recommend diversion and deferred sentences, and judges are now more willing to grant full-fledged expunction.

The bottom line is that if you are worried about the effects of a criminal record, or you want to do something about a criminal past, you now have more options than ever before.

Pretrial Diversion

Typically, this prosecution alternative is only available in misdemeanors. But Hutchinson felony lawyers may also be able to arrange for pretrial diversion in felony drug possession cases, especially if these cases are in designated drug courts. Prosecutors in these courts often have a better understanding of the nature of these offenses.

Generally, status is never a defense to conduct. Alcoholism is not a defense to DUI, and drug addiction is not a defense to drug possession. However, status is often a mitigating circumstance when it comes to punishment. That’s especially the case if the defendant has a substance abuse problem and is willing to get help.

Situations like this one are tailor-made for pretrial diversion. If the defendant completes some program requirements, like submitting to drug treatment, prosecutors normally dismiss the charges. The arrest record remains, but as outlined below, there are some ways to address that issue.

Stay of Adjudication

If pretrial diversion is not an option, a stay of adjudication is probably on the table. A stay of adjudication means that the McLeod County judge accepts a plea of guilty or no contest, but s/he does not enter a finding of guilt. Instead, the judge defers that part of the plea until after the defendant completes probation. If the defendant successfully completes probation, the judge dismisses the case.

Sometimes, the judge will overlook a technical violation here and there, such as a failure to change address or a missed supervisory appointment. But for the most part, the probation record must be spotless. If there is any infraction, the judge may proceed to adjudication at that point, and the deal is off.

Additionally, at the probation violation hearing, the judge may generally sentence the defendant to anything up to the maximum prison sentence, and there is little or nothing that a Hutchinson felony lawyer can do to prevent that outcome.

Those two things are the major stay of adjudication cons. But on the other side, there are some very significant pros. Above all, the defendant could emerge from this mess without a criminal conviction. True, the arrest record remains. But most employers, landlords, and other people who perform background checks only care about convictions. Additionally, if the prior arrest comes up, an explanation like “I hired a Hutchinson felony lawyer and the lawyer took care of it” usually puts any doubts to bed.

Petition for Expungement

A few cases, like sex crimes and domestic violence crimes, are never expungable. But under the expanded expungement law, a long list of felonies are eligible for full record sealing. That includes both conviction and arrest records.

However, expungement is not automatic, even if the defendant meets the minimum qualifications. The judge can take a number of factors into account before making a decision, including:

  • Severity of the offense,
  • Any steps toward rehabilitation (e.g. overcoming a substance abuse issue),
  • Reason for the expungement request,
  • Community service and other involvement,
  • Victim impact,
  • Whether the victim was a minor, and
  • Any mitigating circumstances.

That last bullet is particularly important. It can make or break your expunction petition. A Hutchinson felony lawyer should not re-litigate the case, but your attorney should re-emphasize those points from the trial which favor reduced punishment.

Reach Out to Experienced Attorneys

A criminal conviction does not need to stain your record forever. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson felony lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.

 

Can a Buffalo Criminal Defense Lawyer Clear My Name?

In 2015, the Minnesota legislature significantly expanded the state’s expungement law. The expansion included additional eligible offenses as well as additional forms of relief. There is no guarantee that the new expungement law will erase your criminal past. However, the law gives assertive Buffalo criminal defense lawyers additional opportunities. And sometimes, that chance is all it takes.

A criminal conviction greatly interferes with some things which many people take for granted. For example, Minnesota’s ban the box law prohibits employers from asking about criminal backgrounds during the initial screening process. But employers can, and often do, refuse to interview people with criminal histories. Courts have repeatedly upheld these blanket policies.

If potential employers do not see your conviction record, they cannot ask about it. This proactive approach is the best way to deal with problems like this one.

A Buffalo Criminal Defense Lawyer Explains the Different Kinds of Expungement

There are basically three forms of expungement in Minnesota, and not all of them follow the traditional expungement pathway.

Deferred Adjudication

Initial plea bargain agreements often include deferred adjudication. Prosecutors normally recommend deferred if the case is a nonviolent offense and the defendant has no criminal history. In other situations, a judge may unilaterally grant deferred adjudication. Open pleas like this one, however, are rather risky.

Then again, the entire concept of deferred adjudication is risky. Procedurally, the defendant enters a plea and the judge places the defendant on probation. However, the judge does not enter a finding of guilt. Instead, the judge defers this part of the proceeding until after the defendant completes probation.

If the defendant successfully completes probation, the judge dismisses the criminal charges. However, if the defendant violates probation, the judge may sentence the defendant to anything up to the maximum. If the case is a serious felony, that could mean a very long prison term. Common probation violations include:

  • Failure to report,
  • Committing a new offense while on probation,
  • Failure to pay money, and
  • Violating an offense-specific condition, like failing a drug test.

Many times, a Buffalo criminal defense lawyer bundles a motion for early discharge from probation with deferred adjudication probation. Typically, defendants who have squeaky-clean probation records, have completed at least half the term, and have fulfilled all outstanding obligations (e.g. paid restitution and completed required classes) are eligible for early discharge.

Early release from probation eliminates the risk of violating probation. That’s a very significant plus. Additionally, for expungement purposes, early release makes a probation officer’s endorsement more likely. That endorsement is not quite the Midas touch, but it is pretty close.

Partial Expungement

Deferred adjudication, by itself, eliminates the conviction record. The arrest record remains and is still in full public view. A Buffalo criminal defense lawyer can also ask the court to seal the record. Under the new expungement law, courts have almost unlimited authority to expunge their own records.

However, courts lack the authority to expunge executive branch records. So, the BCA and all other law enforcement agencies still have their arrest records. That could be important if, for example, the defendant needs to undergo a background check for security reasons.

That being said, a residual arrest record is not the end of the world. That’s certainly true in the aforementioned employment situations. Most employers want to know about convictions and not arrests.

Full Expungement

In some cases, a Buffalo criminal defense lawyer may be able to clear your name for any and all purposes. Before 2015, full expungement was only available in a limited number of cases. Now, expungement may be available in the following situations:

  • First-time drug possession offenses,
  • Juvenile matters prosecuted in adult court,
  • Not guilty finding at trial,
  • Any of the property crimes listed here, and
  • Case dismissed for cause.

A for-cause dismissal means something like a lack of evidence or a lack of probable cause. Prosecutorial discretion dismissals are usually not eligible for expungement.

Most domestic violence cases, such as assault and violation of a protective order, are never expungeable. The same thing is basically true of most sex offenses. Additionally, a waiting period of between one and five years may apply.

Factors the Judge May Consider

Plea bargains resolve most original criminal cases. But there is no plea bargaining in expungement matters. If the probation officer endorses the petition, the prosecutor may not contest it. However, the judge always has the final say. The factors to consider include:

  • Severity of the offense,
  • Amount of time that’s passed since the conviction,
  • Defendant’s employment status and community ties,
  • Criminal history, and
  • Affirmative rehabilitation steps.

Generally, the judge will grant the expungement petition if the defendant meets all the technical requirements, the probation officer endorses the petition, and the defendant has a good reason for the request.

Rely on Experienced Attorneys

Most defendants are eligible for some form of expungement. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo criminal defense lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

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