‘Free expungement clinic’ will help Minnesotans clear non-violent offenses from record

The Clean Slate Ace would establish a new automatic expungement process of non-violent offenses that can be barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities.

Hoping to help Minnesotans who have non-violent criminal offenses get their records clean again, lawmakers promoted a "free expungement clinic" at the Capitol Monday to call attention to the Clean Slate Act that passed last legislative session.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison spoke alongside several lawmakers who championed the legislation to promote the new law aimed at making the process of expunging a criminal record easier.

"We convict people of crimes in our state, and that is what we should and must do. But part of public safety is saying that after you’ve done your time… After you’ve demonstrated you’ve deserved a second chance, it should be given," Ellison said Monday.

In coordination with the New Justice Project and the Pathways to True Freedom Foundation, the clinic will be held from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 1, at 1101 W. Broadway in Minneapolis. It is free to the public and will be hosted by Ellison.

Sponsored by Senate President Bobby Joe Champion and House Majority Leader Jamie Long, the Clean Slate Act was enacted to establish a new automatic expungement process for non-violent offenses that can be barriers to employment, housing and educational opportunities.

 Both lawmakers also spoke at the press event Monday.

"We live in a state of second chances, and for far too long our criminal justice system has kept Minnesotans from getting that chance," said Sen. Champion. "Instead, the collateral consequences extend far beyond what was ever sentenced."

"This bill is based on a really simple premise – everybody deserves a second chance. Everybody deserves an opportunity for redemption," said Rep. Long. "This has been done successfully across the country, and we’re the latest to add to the list."

The criteria to receive an "automatic expungement" include:

  •  If a person was arrested and all charges were dismissed after a case was filed
  •  If all pending court proceedings were resolved in a person's favor
  •  A person has successfully completed the terms of a diversion program and has not been petitioned or charged with another offense other than a petty misdemeanor
  •  A person received a stayed sentence for a qualifying offense
  • A person has not been convicted of a new offense other than a petty misdemeanor in Minnesota during the application waiting period

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) will be the agency responsible for maintaining records and processing automatic expungement applications.

However, despite the newly automated process, a record of conviction will still be disclosed for a background study for licensing boards and agencies if required.

Since 2014, Minnesota has had a petition-based expungement system in which a person had to file paperwork to fulfill a court process to remove convictions from their record.

In 2020, Ellison spearheaded the launching of the website HelpSealMyRecord.org, which allowed prosecutors to assist eligible Minnesotans in obtaining an expungement of criminal records anywhere in Minnesota at no cost - at the time citing the unfair penalization of otherwise law-abiding citizens who have made mistakes. 

HelpSealMyRecord.org was initially launched by the Ramsey and Washington County Attorney’s Office in 2019 but became a statewide initiative the following year.

In 2021, Minnesota held its first cannabis offense expungement clinic