The rule of law in Minnesota and the rest of the United States is based on the idea that you are presumed innocent unless and until you are found guilty of a criminal charge. The presumption of innocence is an important underpinning to individual freedom, but as many readers likely know, just because the standard exists doesn't mean it is always followed.
A person convicted of a crime, whether horribly serious or relatively minor, can be haunted by the verdict. After serving whatever penalty may have been meted out, they can still find it hard to get their lives on track. Housing and jobs can be difficult to obtain because of background checks. Even if a person is cleared of all charges, the existence of court records could prove to be a stumbling block.
It is because of these realities that anyone facing serious criminal charges needs to be in contact with an attorney with deep experience delivering effective criminal defense counsel. Every case is different, of course, but by working with an attorney early it may be possible to prevent matters from reaching the court.
But even if they do, a new law has become effective in Minnesota as of the first of this year that allows the possibility of having criminal records in many cases sealed from public scrutiny.
It must be noted that the law doesn't erase such records. What it does do is allow a court to seal or expunge a record from view. And not every case can be cloaked. They have to be juvenile offenses, misdemeanors, or one of 50 low-level, nonviolent felonies.
Still, considering that the National Employment Law Project estimates 25 percent of all Americans have some form of record, and most of the crimes are nonviolent offenses, the law could prove useful to many individuals.
Source: The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, "New Minn. law helps seal criminal records," Archie Ingersoll, Jan. 3, 2015