Minnesota Court Records
Infractions, Misdemeanors and Felonies in Minnesota
Usually, offenses and crimes can be categorized into three major types based on their gravity and the severity of their punishments: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Infractions are typically the least severe types of offenses, followed by misdemeanors, which are more severe and then felonies which are the most severe categories of crimes. In some states, these categories are subdivided, sometimes broken down into classes and levels, while some states classify offenses on a crime-by-crime basis.
However, in the state of Minnesota, offenses are categorized into two major levels: felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies are not subdivided into levels or classes but misdemeanors are broken down into three types. Infractions on the other hand, are not a major category but are divided along these two categories. The crimes under these categories have various penalties, as defined under the Minnesota criminal code. The state's criminal courts in Minnesota handle criminal cases, and individuals can request and acquire Minnesota criminal court records from the specific court where the hearing occurred.
What is a Felony in Minnesota?
The Minnesota legislature defines felonies as crimes which are punishable by imprisonment of more than a year (MN. Stat. § 609.02). Felonies are the most serious crimes which carry great implications and grave penalties from imprisonment to fines to other sanctions provided at the discretion of the judge. Since Minnesota is one of the states in the US to abolish capital punishment, the maximum penalty for felonies is life imprisonment.
Unlike some other states, felonies in Minnesota are not categorized into classes or levels (Class 1 or Level 1). Instead, specific penalties are set on a crime-by-crime basis. Some crimes may even fall under both felonies and misdemeanors depending on factors surrounding every unique case. This may also affect the severity level of sentences given to offenders who have been convicted of these crimes. These factors include:
- The age of the victim, offender, or both.
- The criminal history or prior offenses committed by the offender.
- The psychology or “sanity” of the offender.
- Consequences of the crime like financial, moral, social, or health-related damages.
- Other aggravating or mitigating factors like premeditation, provocation, duress, self-defense, etc.
These factors may lead to a change in the sentence, degree of the crime, category where the crime falls, or penalty given. For instance, a DWI misdemeanor may be classified as a felony if the individual is a habitual offender i.e. had committed three prior DUIs within a few years.
Apart from the penalties imposed, individuals who are convicted of felonies may lose certain civil rights, temporarily or permanently.
What are some examples of felonies in Minnesota?
Some examples of felonies in Minnesota are:
- Aggravated robbery
- Criminal sexual conduct (1st degree) or Rape
- Criminal vehicular homicide
Can I get a Felony Removed from a Court Record in Minnesota?
Yes, it is possible to expunge certain felony records in Minnesota. Records of cases that did not lead to conviction are eligible for expungement. For instance records of individuals who were not charged, whose charges were dismissed, or who were found not guilty.
In the case of felony convictions, it is possible to expunge felony crimes as listed under MN. Stat. § 609A-02-3 as long as the waiting period has passed without the requester committing any crimes. The felonies that qualify for expungement are mainly non-violent and non-sexual crimes. They include, but are not limited to, the following (with limitations):
- Accidents with great bodily harm
- Crimes against court (contempt, failure to appear in court)
- Criminal property damage
- Embezzlement (under $2500)
- Falsification or forgery of certain certificates or documents (checks, livestock, title, driver’s license)
- Fraud (of title, lottery, credit card, mortgage and cell phone service)
- Insurance violations
- Invasion of privacy and hacking
- Possession of controlled substance
- Tax violations (fuel, liquor)
- Theft of property (under $5,000) and livestock
- Violation of weapon regulation (possession without permit, transfer pistol to minor, discharge of firearm, etc)
- Voting violations
- Weapons possession
- Wildfire arson and negligent fires
How to get an expungement in Minnesota
The process of getting records expunged from Minnesota courts may involve the following steps:
- Prepare: Find out the agencies that keep certain records and compile printouts of complete criminal case history. The individual must get and organize details of all arrests, charges and convictions from all related agencies.
- Obtain Forms: Get a set of expungement forms for each of the criminal cases that the person needs to remove. They may include notice of hearing and petition for expungement form, affidavit of service form, and order concerning sealing of records form. Forms will be available in the courthouse where an individual was charged (for a fee) or online at www.mncourts.gov/forms.
- Complete forms: First fill out the notice of hearing and petition for expungement and the order concerning sealing of records forms, the third will be filled later. Input the appropriate information for each Minnesota case. When required, persons must be sure to list all their criminal history and explain why they are asking for expungement. All details like names, dates, addresses, case numbers, etc should be as specific and accurate as possible. Hearing date on the petition form should be at least 63 days from when the papers will be mailed.
- Notarize: Sign the papers under the attention of the notary and get them stamped.
- Make copies: Have at least two copies of the filled forms
- Prepare to mail: Get envelopes and write addresses of the law enforcement and prosecution agencies that have copies of certain records. Put in the appropriate photocopies of notice and order forms in the appropriate envelopes.
- Get a service person: It should be noted that the mailing of these forms should not be done by the individual who owns the record that stated in the requests. Instead, it should be done by someone over 18 years who owns a valid identification.
- File affidavit of service form: After mailing the documents, the adult must also fill and sign the affidavit form in front of a notary.
- File forms in court: The owner of the records should take the three original forms to the court for filing within two days after posting mail
- Pay fee: Pay all required fees to the court clerk or appropriate personnel.
- Response: In the absence of a notice of objection, attend the hearing on set date.
- Ruling: If expungement is approved, the individual may need to get the order, make copies, and forward to all agencies involved.
Note: Expungement is possible but not guaranteed; decision is made at the discretion of the judge.
Is Expungement the same as Sealing Court Records in Minnesota?
Yes, expunging court records in Minnesota is the same as sealing records. Once a record is expunged in Minnesota, it is sealed from public view and doesn’t appear in criminal record searches done by members of the public. However, records are not destroyed and can be accessed by those with the right clearance i.e, law enforcement or prosecutor agencies.
How Long Does a Felony Stay on Your Record in Minnesota?
There is no automatic expungement of records in Minnesota. A felony can remain on an individual’s criminal records forever if petitions are not filed and granted. The waiting period before an individual can file a petition for expungement in Minnesota is 1 year for cases that didn’t lead to convictions and five years for felony convictions.
What is a Misdemeanor in Minnesota?
Misdemeanors in Minnesota are offenses that are less severe than felonies which mean that it is punishable by not more than one year imprisonment. These offenses are not seen as grievous and may include violations of ordinances and other rules of any political subdivision of the state.
Penalties may also include fines, parole, restitution, or other sanctions given at the discretion of the judge or by the affected public bodies. As with felonies, penalties may be influenced by circumstances surrounding the crime like age of offender and affected persons, prior criminal history, and other factors.
Categories of Misdemeanors in Minnesota
There are three categories of misdemeanors in Minnesota and crimes that fall into any of the categories have penalties provided by in the criminal code of the state (MN. Stat. § 609.02). Misdemeanor categories and their penalties are:
Gross misdemeanor: This is the most serious of all misdemeanors. It is defined as any crime which is punishable by a maximum fine of $3,000 and a jail term not exceeding 1 year.
Misdemeanor (standard): The Minnesota legislature defines this as a crime which is punishable by imprisonment not exceeding 90 days, or a fine not exceeding $1,000, or both.
Petty misdemeanor: Also called petty offense in Minnesota, this is a non-criminal offense against a statute or ordinance. They are the least severe offenses in the state and offenses which fall under this category are punishable by a fine not exceeding $300. They are what are known as “infractions” in some states in the US.
What are some examples of Misdemeanors in Minnesota?
Some examples of misdemeanors in Minnesota according to class are:
- DWI (third offense)
- Gambling (as defined in MN. Stat. § 609.76)
- Reckless driving
- DUI/DWI (first offense)
- Gambling (as defined in MN. Stat. § 609.755)
- Assault (fifth degree)
- Possession of small amounts of marijuana
- Use of ignition devices (without arson) inside schools or places with risk of fire
- Failure to appear in court
- Petty theft
Can I Get a Misdemeanor Removed from a Record in Minnesota?
Yes, individuals who were arrested, charged, or convicted for any misdemeanor in Minnesota are eligible for expungement. The Minnesota expungement law allows for misdemeanors to be expunged under the following conditions:
- Persons who have been convicted have been discharged from prison or probation and satisfied all terms of the penalty
- Individuals arrested but not convicted may petition for the expungement of all records maintained or created from arrest to dismissal only after 1 year from dismissal and the individual didn’t commit a crime for a year since.
- Convicted persons of misdemeanors or petty misdemeanors may petition for expungement after a waiting period of 2 years and no crimes were committed within this period
- Persons convicted of gross misdemeanors may petition for expungement after a waiting period of 4 years for misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors and no crimes were committed within this period
Can a DWI Be Expunged in Minnesota?
Yes, records of DWIs (also known as DUI) can be expunged in Minnesota. However, it depends on the category where the DWI falls and certain conditions provided under Minnesota DWI law and the Minnesota expungement law. Terms stated for DWI expungement include:
- A record of DWI arrests or charges that do not lead to convictions can be expunged after one year if there are no subsequent crimes.
- A felony conviction of DWI cannot be expunged.
- Gross misdemeanor DWI are eligible for expungement after 4 years and if there are no offenses committed within this period
- Misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor DWI are eligible for expungement 2 years after disposition and there are no subsequent crimes committed
It should be noted that expungement of these records does not equal destruction of all records, they are just sealed from public view. Moreover, records of DWI convictions are permanently kept on the official database and can be used for subsequent sentencing.
What constitutes an Infraction in Minnesota?
Infractions in Minnesota are violations of the state laws and ordinances. They are not a major category of offenses in the state and are mainly known traffic infractions. They are divided into four levels according to the major categories of crimes in the state: felony, gross misdemeanor, misdemeanor, and petty misdemeanors. Penalties for these crimes depend on the category where it falls and the punishment specified by the state laws which may include imprisonment, fines, citations, etc.
What are some examples of traffic infractions in Minnesota?
- Unauthorized parking in a disability space
- Failure to wear a seat belt
- Violation of the speed limit
- Failure to secure children in a child restraint device
- Running a red light
- Littering on a highway
- Violating phone use prohibitions
Can Traffic Infractions be Expunged from a Minnesota Criminal Court Record?
Expungement of traffic infractions depend on the category where the violations fall and the provisions of the Minnesota expungement law. However, most first and second offenses of majority of traffic infractions usually fall under the three misdemeanor levels and can be expunged within a maximum period of 4 years if no subsequent crimes have been committed and all penalties satisfied.
Note: If a crime is committed within the waiting periods, the punishment for such crimes are more severe.