Hennepin County PDO’s Expungement Project
I was excited to be asked to join this new expungement project that Gabriel was creating. As Gabriel mentioned above, we are working on getting the records sealed for misdemeanor cases that have been dismissed. Once the case is dismissed, an attorney will have the client sign an expungement form and our team will work on the rest.
As I often explain to our clients that I meet with, expungement does not mean the file is deleted. When an expungement is granted, each agency is ordered to seal the file. This doesn’t cut off access to the information. There are several different ways in Minnesota that expunged files can be accessed, ranging from statutory permission to the agency having to get an ex parte a court order. I tell our clients that it’s like putting a piece of paper on top of the file to block out the information. The information is there, and if an agency wants it, they can find it.
We are very lucky to have five law students who have volunteered their time to work on these expungements for this semester. They meet with clients, explain the procedure, collect the information, and file the expungements. Occasionally, we will have a client with an extraordinary amount of dismissed cases. When that occurs, the misdemeanor attorney or our clerks will go through the client’s history and try to get multiple cases off of the client’s record. The cases are typically charges such as trespass, loitering, and driving after revocations. These low level offenses are often detrimental to a client’s life. Expungements could potentially aid clients in opportunities involving employment, housing, schooling, or licensing. But for some, just having the charge on their record psychologically affects them.
We are currently working to create a better and more efficient system to allow our clients greater access to this remedy. To date, our misdemeanor attorneys have made over 100 expungement referrals, with more coming in each day.