Selected Mentions of Paper Prisons in the News

Minnesota Legislators Address Benefits of New Expungement Law (Nov. 7, 2023)

Though Minnesota already had an expungement act, the process proved too costly for many. On top of fees that could rise above $300, the procedure also took too long. These issues meant that few eligible individuals attempted expungement. A study by Santa Clara University found that only 5% of eligible Minnesota residents had their records expunged, though 60% of the individuals with criminal records were eligible.

The new Clean Slate Act also expands expungement eligibility. Though it does not eliminate criminal records, it does prevent them from appearing on standard background checks. As such, most landlords and potential employers will see the information. However, courts and law enforcement agencies can still access expunged records. Other agencies that maintain access include the Department of Human Services and licensing boards.

The Clean Slate Act will automatically expunge certain non-violent offenses. These include dismissed petty and gross misdemeanor offenses and completed diversion programs or stay-of-adjudications. However, individuals will have a waiting period before they qualify for the expungement. 

The waiting period is two years for a discharged petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor sentence. It is a three-year waiting period for a gross misdemeanor. Additionally, the individual must avoid accruing charges for other offenses during the waiting period. Crimes such as theft, property damage, receiving stolen property, fifth-degree drug possession or sale, and some financial crimes are often eligible. 

Furthermore, the Clean Slate Act can automatically expunge some felony offenses. However, it has carved exceptions to the automatic expungement. These include violent crimes and petty misdemeanors involving traffic regulations concerning operating or parking motor vehicles. These misdemeanors include the following:

  • “Fourth-degree driving while impaired
  • Violation of an order for protection
  • Fifth-degree assault 
  • Domestic assault
  • Violation of a harassment restraining order
  • Interference with emergency call
  • Obscene or harassing phone calls
  • Indecent exposure
  • Interference with privacy
  • Violation of domestic abuse no contact order

Or the following gross misdemeanors:

  • Second-degree driving while impaired
  • Third-degree driving while impaired
  • Violation of an order for protection
  • Fourth-degree or fifth-degree assault 
  • Domestic assault
  • Criminal neglect
  • Fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct 
  • Malicious punishment of a child
  • Escape from custody
  • Tampering with witness
  • Fourth-degree burglary 
  • Interference with privacy
  • Violation of a harassment restraining order
  • Harassment or stalking
  • Interference with emergency call
  • Indecent exposure
  • Nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images
  • Violation of domestic abuse no-contact order.”

This new law should give people who have earned a second chance expanded opportunities for both employment and housing. It could also help many employers due to the worker shortage. This law will not take effect until January 2025. Until then, employers can offer a second chance by considering whether an offense relates to the job. The best way to start a second chance program is to partner with a background check company experienced in second chance hiring.

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