Attorney General Ellison makes it easier to seal criminal records

"We want to lift the burden off Minnesotans who may have found themselves in trouble but who are now ready to be law-abiding contributors to the community."

Image Credit: Twitter via @AGEllison

Attorney General Keith Ellison has announced an initiative that makes it easier for Minnesotans to seal their criminal records.

The initiative, called HelpSealMyRecord.org, was originally launched roughly a year ago and designed to ease the process of expunging criminal records for those residing in Ramsey and Washington counties. Now, it is a statewide program intended to help Minnesotans who are “locked out of the economy” by giving them legal representation during their expungement, making it simpler and easier for those with a non-violent criminal past to escape from it.

“Prosecutors are ministers of justice. Our job isn’t just to win convictions, it’s to ensure that justice is done,” Attorney General Ellison said in a press release.

“For too long, Minnesotans in most parts of our state who have already paid the price for their offense have continued to pay an unfair price. Their criminal record continues to haunt them when they apply for jobs, credit, education, housing, or other essential services. That doesn’t just hold them back, it holds everyone back,” he continued. “It’s unfair to everyone in society when some people are unfairly kept from contributing to their fullest desire and ability.”

Though thousands of people have records available for expungement, no violent crimes can be hidden. Only misdemeanors and 50 non-violent felonies are on the list of expungable crimes.

The Attorney General’s Office said the initiative is designed to remove a number of barriers to expunging a criminal record, such as the cost of expunging records, the complications of doing so in multiple counties, and the varying wait times for different types of crimes.

“We want to lift the burden off Minnesotans who may have found themselves in trouble but who are now ready to be law-abiding contributors to the community,” Ellison said during a press conference.

The expunged records won’t be completely erased — law enforcement will still be able to access them, but landlords and employers will be barred from the information. 

Ellison’s office said prosecutors will help make Minnesotans who are eligible for expungement aware that they can apply and will initiate their applications. Then they will “shepherd eligible applications through the complicated and time-consuming process for applicants at no cost,” said a release. 

HelpSealMyRecord.org is a joint initiative between the Attorney General’s Office, and the attorney’s offices of Ramsey, Washington and Hennepin counties. Prosecutors in the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office will assist applicants in all other counties. 

The initiative is funded by the Minnesota Department of Health’s Safe Harbor Program (which aims to help young people who were sexually exploited) and the Saint Paul and Minnesota Foundation, which seeks to “advocate for equality” between races in Minnesota.

“We’re not sitting back and letting people fall through the cracks any longer,” Ellison concluded.