William Mitchell Law Review

Publication Information

31 William Mitchell Law Review 1331 (2004-2005)


This article explains Minnesota’s expungement law and analyzes a recent Minnesota Court of Appeals decision that limits the expungement remedy. Specifically, this article begins by examining the effects of a criminal record and the purposes of expungement.8 An expungement’s main purpose is to seal an individual’s criminal record from public view, thereby allowing the individual to fully reintegrate into society. This article then provides an overview of current expungement law and its history. This article also explains different types of criminal records and the different mechanisms used to seal each type of record. The focus of this article is on sealing records of convictions. One of the difficulties in sealing a criminal record is in the number of public and private agencies that have a record of the offense. In the past, a court could order all public agencies holding a record of the offense to seal the record. But under recent case law, specifically State v. Schultz, the Minnesota Court of Appeals found that, under the separation of powers doctrine, district courts only have the authority to seal judicial records. This finding leaves executive branch records available to the public. One example of an executive record is the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) record, which is of particular concern because many landlords and employers use BCA records to conduct background checks on applicants. Limiting the district court’s power to seal to judicial records nullifies the expungement remedy and creates an inconsistency in records not contemplated by the court of appeals. Keeping executive branch records available to the public also ignores legislative intent and the practical realities of the separation of powers doctrine. Lastly, in response to the Schultz decision, this article offers some tools that could help defense attorneys avoid the Schultz holding.