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Minnesota Court Records

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What are Minnesota Traffic Court Records?

Traffic court records are the official documentation of moving and non-moving violations under the motor vehicle code in Minnesota. They include legal documents and case files generated from the proceedings of the traffic courts of Minnesota. These include records created for petty misdemeanors and misdemeanors and include records for gross misdemeanors and felonies.

Are Minnesota Traffic Court Records Public Records?

Documented proceedings from a court of record are classified public records and, as such, are available to members of the general public under the public access to information law. Ergo, members of the public can request access to any traffic record, with the exemption of records that a judge has restricted.

Getting a Traffic Ticket in Minnesota

A Minnesota traffic ticket or citation is a computer-generated long-form document issued by a law enforcement officer for violations of traffic statutes in the state of Minnesota. It indicates the officer's sworn statement regarding their observations of the alleged violation. The officer may complete the citation, containing a citation number and information pertinent to the violation. This information may include the full name, date of birth, address, height, weight, gender, and race of the alleged violator. If the offender is a juvenile, then name and address (if different) of parents or legal guardians may be provided. Details about the violator's license and information about the vehicle involved in the violation may also be noted on the ticket. The citation may indicate the time, date, and location of the alleged offense, including the county. The offense(s) noted may be listed with a charge description and the statute/ordinance deemed to have been violated.

It may also indicate if the offense is a petty misdemeanor, misdemeanor, or gross misdemeanor and if this is up to the offender's third violation. If any on-site tests were given, they may be noted as well. The officer may append his name, ID number, agency and record the date the ticket was issued. If the "Endangering Life/Property" checkbox is marked, a court appearance is required, and a court date may be included. If a court date is not noted on the ticket, then a notice to appear may be sent to the address provided on the citation. It is your responsibility to ensure the court has your current address. The ticket's reverse side may contain information about responding to citations and should be strictly adhered to.

Minnesota does not operate a points-based driving record system, but violations are reported to the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Convictions are noted on your driving record, and repeat or habitual offenders and violations that demonstrate a pattern of dangerous driving may receive added penalties, including having your license suspended or revoked. There are four basic levels of traffic violations- petty misdemeanors, misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors, and felonies- and each carries different fines, penalties, and jail time (where applicable). Certain violations are deemed Payable Offenses. These offenses are mostly petty misdemeanors, come with no jail time, and can be handled sans a court appearance. Some misdemeanors fall under this classification as well.

Traffic citations come with penalties consisting of fines and other charges. Total fine amounts are not available until after the law enforcement agency files the citation with the court and inputs it into the Minnesota Court Information System (MNCIS), a process that could take up to ten business days. Afterward, you may use the court's web portal to search (by citation number) for the total amount and make the payment, or you may contact the Minnesota Court Payment Center (MNCPC) for help.

Typically, Minnesota traffic violations and infractions are separated into moving and non-moving offenses. Moving violations are traffic law offenses committed by a moving vehicle. Non-moving violations tend to occur with parked cars or due to faulty or broken vehicle equipment. Non-moving violations can be cited on moving vehicles, but such violations may be differentiated by law. Non-moving violations are not reported to the Missouri Department of Public Safety and are not recorded on the offenders' driving record.

Counties, cities, and towns in Minnesota are authorized to establish administrative citations that may be imposed by peace officers instead of petty misdemeanors in specific circumstances. The statutes and ordinances violated may be the same, the legal process and penalties may be different.

What to Do When You Get a Traffic Ticket in Minnesota?

If you receive a traffic citation in Missouri, you may:

  • Pay the traffic ticket
  • Contest the ticket

A response may be made to the citation before or on the scheduled court date by entering one of the above actions. If no court date is indicated, you may respond within 30 days of the date the citation was issued.

Contesting a Traffic Ticket in Minnesota 

Choosing to pay the fine may be considered entering a GUILTY plea to a Missouri state traffic ticket. It may indicate an acknowledgment of the charges against you, an agreement to settle all imposed fines, fees, and penalties, and a waiver of your right to contest the ticket in court. This option is essentially a conviction, which may be reported to the DPS and may show on your driving record.

If a court appearance is not required, i.e., your violation is a payable offense, you can pay the fine and other charges

  • Online on the Minnesota Court Payment web portal
  • By phone or mail by contacting the Minnesota Court Payment Center (MNCPC)
  • In-person to the court's clerk of the county where the citation was issued

You may need to verify your total fine amount on the portal with the MNCPC or court clerk, and you should give 7–10 working days to ensure the citation has been filed.

What to Expect in a Minnesota Traffic Court

If a court appearance is required (Endangering Life/Property checkbox is marked), a court date may have been noted on the ticket, or you may receive a notice to appear with a date and time. You may appear on the date, time, and location and enter your plea, at which you may be assessed the total fine payable.

If this is your only ticket, you may be eligible for a Continuance for Dismissal which may keep the ticket off your record, and the court may be able to let you know the details if you qualify. Choosing to exercise your right to contest the ticket is seen as a NOT GUILTY plea, and you may appear in court to do so. It is advisable to retain the services of a traffic attorney at this point.

Certain counties allow you to meet a Hearings Officer at the Hearing & Fines Management Office of the Violations Bureau to discuss your options for dealing with the citation. If a resolution is reached, you need not appear in court. Otherwise, you may appear at the appointed court at the indicated time for trial. At the end of the proceeding, the judiciary official may rule on your case, and you may be adjudged Guilty or Not Guilty.

A guilty verdict may result in you having to pay all accrued fines and fees, and a conviction on the charges may be noted on your driving record and reported to the DPS (if applicable).

A not guilty verdict may free you on all accounts, making you not liable for fines and charges, though court costs may still apply. No record of the offense may appear on your driving record.

How Do I Find Minnesota Traffic Court Records?

Minnesota traffic court records can be reviewed to ascertain whether they are available online using the Minnesota Judicial Branch website. The name on the record being requested and the case file number are required. This only shows which records are available, and online access to actual files can only be made from public access computers at the courthouse or State law library. Alternatively, you can visit the appropriate court in person and make your request at the court clerk's office. Court charges may apply if copies of the record are required and identity verification is mandatory. It is also possible to find traffic records on third-party websites. By law or court order, some documents in a court file may be "confidential," "expunged," or "sealed," and such files cannot be viewed or copied.

Publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties may provide:

  • The name of someone involved, providing it is not a juvenile
  • The assumed location of the record in question, such as a city, county, or state name

Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.

What Information is Required to Obtain Minnesota Traffic Court Records?

You may need to provide information about the particular record, including full name (as it appears on the record), date of birth, and the case number. The person requesting the record may also need to provide information including full name, address and a valid form of identification. Court fees may apply depending on the scope of the request and may be paid before you can receive the records.

Are all Traffic Violations Handled The Same Way, in Minnesota?

Minnesota traffic violations are typically handled in the same manner regardless of the offense level. There may be a difference in fines and penalties received, but the underlying procedures may be the same. The exemption to this is if the ticket is an administrative citation and issued by a peace officer.

Administrative citations are contested through a civil process and this may be set up by the local unit of government. The process may include a hearing and rulings by a neutral third party when a citation is being contested. This process takes the place of the court system in handling the case. These are only issued for petty violations.

Can Minnesota Traffic Records be Sealed or Expunged?

Minnesota laws allow for the expungement of a vast collection of offenses, including petty misdemeanors, misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors, and certain felonies. It may require that a specified period has elapsed, dependent on the type of offense, and that the person making the request has not been convicted of any other crime within that time.

How Does One End Up In a Minnesota Traffic Court?

One ends up in Minnesota traffic after one receives a traffic citation and

  • You wish to plead not guilty
  • You wish to plead guilty and offer an explanation
  • The officer has indicated you endangered persons or property

Which Courts In Minnesota Have Jurisdiction To Hear Traffic Violation Matters?

Minnesota traffic violations are heard in the county or district courts where the violation was alleged to have happened.

How to Prepare for Traffic Court in Minnesota

In Minnesota, preparing for traffic court involves:

  • Understanding the details of your citation and the potential penalties, including fines and license points
  • Researching Minnesota's traffic laws relevant to your case
  • Considering consulting with a traffic attorney for legal advice and representation
  • Collect any evidence or witnesses that support your defense.
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Minnesota Traffic Court Records
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