In a recent decision, the Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that the “Second Chance Law” does not apply to those whose felony convictions were later downgraded to misdemeanors. It was a closely contested 4-3 decision, but in the end the court decided that to petition for expungement, the petitioner must not have been convicted of a felony that does not qualify for expungement, whether or not that conviction was downgraded later on. In this case, a man plead guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree burglary, but once he completed probation, the conviction was downgraded to a misdemeanor.
The Case Against Expungement
In this case, the main issue was whether the original conviction or the current status should be relevant when applying for expungement. The majority found that since the original conviction was not one of the 50 felonies that qualify as potentially expungeable, then the petition should not proceed. Part of the crux of their argument stemmed from the minimum waiting times to petition. The majority didn’t feel that an appropriate outcome would be that someone who was convicted of a more serious crime could then petition after the 2 year waiting period for those who had originally plead guilty to a misdemeanor. Even if the man had been convicted of one of the 50 potentially expungeable felonies, the wait time is still 5 years.
The Case For Expungement
The minority felt that the wait time should not be an issue. For the petitioner to get to that point, they would have had to complete probation successfully, and demonstrate that they were worthy for expungement. It would not be opening many doors to other felons to petition for expungement, since there were so many hurdles to clear before getting to that point. Because of this, the dissenting justices felt that the status of the conviction at the time of the petition was more relevant for potential expungement.
This decision may affect thousands of people in similar situations, but it’s unclear how many would have gotten to the point of petitioning, since there are many obstacles in the way before reaching that point. With the recent election of Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature, it doesn’t seem like the law will be loosened any time soon.
Mosedale, Mike. “Supreme Court limits expungement eligibility.” Minnesota Lawyer. N.p., 17 Mar. 2017. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.