SAINT PAUL – State Senator Bobby Joe Champion’s expungement legislation passed the Judiciary Committee on a bipartisan vote and was re-referred to the Finance Committee. Under current law, executive branch criminal records can only be sealed for a few drug offenses, juveniles certified as adults, and cases “resolved in favor” of the petitioner. The Champion legislation requires business screening services to delete expunged records if they know a criminal record has been sealed, expunged or is the subject of a pardon. The legislation also allows for the expungement of eviction records in certain cases.
According to Champion, nearly one in five Minnesotans have an arrest or criminal record, and those records are easier than ever to access. Use of criminal record checks by employers and landlords has skyrocketed as they evaluate candidates for employment and housing. Unfortunately, the records they find are often inaccurate, incomplete or easily misinterpreted.
“All too often, online records fail to show that an individual was convicted of a lesser crime than they were originally charged with,” Sen. Champion said. “Many times a person could have been arrested, but not charged or that charges were dropped or that they were charged but not convicted and these arrest records show up on the internet and in reports. Sadly, an overwhelming majority of employers refuse to hire anyone with an arrest or criminal record, regardless of how long ago it was or the crime’s relevance to the position for which they are being considered.”
Senator Champion’s legislation is designed to remove the barriers associated with criminal background checks. Without this law change, many Minnesotans who have taken honest steps to improve their lives, or were simply in the wrong place, at the wrong time, are being denied employment, housing and educational opportunities.