You may have read this title and thought, “what does it even mean to expunge records?” That is a fair question. An expungement is the process of asking a judge to seal court records, this process prevents those records from being publicly accessible. There are two different types of expungement, partial and full expungements. A full expungement is straightforward since it is outlined by statute and can result in the sealing of all records relating to a case. Examples of a full expungement are certain criminal expungement, eviction expungement and civil commitment expungement.
Partial expungements are not outlined anywhere outside of case law and can only seal certain records, primarily judicial records. Unlike a full expungement, partial expungements will not seal police records, BCA records, or DPS records. If the title did not tip you off, our main focus is expunging civil case records. Since Orders for Protection (OFP), Harassment Restraining Order (HRO), and driving records are civil in nature and are not covered by any specific statute, in order to expunge them, you would need a partial expungement.
After learning there is a way to expunge your civil records, the natural follow-up question is, do I qualify? In order to qualify for a partial expungement, there are two different standards courts apply. The court may choose between the two different standards when determining whether an expungement is appropriate. Under the first standard, you must display to the Court that your constitutional rights will be seriously infringed by retention of your case records. See Barlow v. Commr. of Pub. Safety, 365 N.W. 2d 232 (Minn. 1985). This is a tougher standard to attain, as you must relate your claim for expungement to a constitutional violation.
A second option involves showing that an expungement will yield a benefit that outweighs any disadvantages to public safety. Id. Most often, this is the standard courts will use for their determination. Both standards, when reached, allow for the court to use their inherent authority to grant a partial expungement. While a partial expungement will not seal all records, it will protect the court files from being accessed by the public.
For more information on civil expungements and whether it is a viable option for you, reach out to one of our attorneys!