Stay of Imposition Expungement Update - Court of Appeals Decision

As has been discussed in this blog previously, the biggest ambiguity in the expungement law is how courts should interpret a stay of imposition expungement petition – specifically, is the conviction a felony as originally adjudicated or a misdemeanor as the record currently shows after the petitioner successfully completes probation?

An incredibly thorough and well-reasoned judge out of Ramsey County spent 20 pages analyzing this very issue (sidenote: this 20 pages is almost double the amount of analysis by the Court of Appeals in its recent decision). After carefully scrutinizing the language of the statute, the Ramsey County judge found that, at the time the petition was filed, the record showed a conviction for a misdemeanor, not a felony. As a result, the petitioner “was convicted of” a misdemeanor for expungement purposes, making the petitioner eligible for a statutory expungement.

On Monday, the Court of Appeals found differently. The Court of Appeals did not concern itself with how the record is viewed now. Essentially, the language ‘was convicted’ in the statute asks simply: was the petitioner convicted of a felony when the case was originally resolved? Because the original adjudication in a stay of imposition is a felony conviction, the record must be construed as a felony record for expungement purposes. The end result is a significant hit to expungement petitioners statewide.

This is a ridiculous outcome. The purpose of the expungement statute is to seal the record. It is the record that matters. And, by operation of law, the record shall be considered a misdemeanor. It’s asinine to now argue it’s a felony for expungement purposes. It’s contrary to the agreed upon resolution at the time of sentencing and the purpose of the expungement law. Unfortunately – and admittedly – the expungement law’s statutory language can lead to this unjust outcome.

So what does this mean if you have a stay of imposition record you want sealed? First, you may still be eligible for a statutory expungement if the matter involves an eligible felony record. If not, you may still seek an inherent authority expungement of the record, which, though not perfect, is still an expungement that can be utilized to your advantage during job or housing searches. Second, still petition the courts for a statutory expungement. Keep fighting this fight because the Court of Appeals got it wrong and this case is likely to go up to the Supreme Court. Third, reach out to your local legislators. If they hear enough of our voices, change to the statutory framework may come.

If you need a stay of imposition expungement, it is imperative you get an experienced Minnesota expungement attorney to help you fight for this expungement. The arguments are nuanced and require our expertise.