Expunging Records Within the Statute of Limitations Period - Be Careful

The existence of a criminal record – even when the matter was ultimately dismissed – is still damaging. The mere fact that you were charged with a crime raises red flags for human resource managers and potential landlords. That is why seeking to get a record involving an outright dismissal expunged is still crucial for many individuals. But, be careful before pursuing this expungement.

When a case is dismissed, a person may seek to have that record sealed immediately and without needing to pay a filing fee. As a result, you may think getting this record expunged soon after the dismissal should be easy. This may not be the case, though, if the applicable statute of limitations period has yet to lapse.

In Minnesota, the State can re-file charges against a person – for the same offense with the same complaint – after having already dismissed the case previously. When the State dismisses a case, it must explain the basis for the dismissal. If, for instance, it is due to unavailability of a key witness – such as an alleged victim in a domestic assault – this case can be re-charged if that witness is later found. And, this is exactly what happened for someone seeking an expungement of a dismissed domestic assault case (not one of our clients, because we know the risk associated with doing so):

An individual had a domestic assault case dismissed when the alleged victim could not be found leading up to trial. When that person sought an expungement later, the attorney handling expungements in that prosecutor’s office – who was different than the prosecutor handling the criminal case – made a renewed effort to find the victim. Lo and behold, the victim was found in short order and wanted to assist the State in pursuing the case again. So, instead of having the record of the dismissed case, the individual essentially kicked a sleeping bear by giving the State another opportunity to track down the witness.

The take-away for you – if the case was dismissed, learn why it was dismissed and when the applicable statute of limitations period expires. If you have concerns that the basis for the dismissal leaves open the chance that the State may re-initiate a criminal case against you if you pursue this expungement, you ought to give careful consideration before starting the expungement process.

This is not to say that all dismissed cases can and will be re-charged if an expungement is sought. But, it’s a cautionary tale to learn from someone’s mistake. If you have any questions or concerns, call us now and get an experienced Minnesota expungement lawyer on your case.