SECOND CHANCE: Expungement law to help Minn. offenders find jobs

SECOND CHANCE: Expungement law to help Minn. offenders find jobs

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

On Wednesday, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed an expungement bill into law that should make it easier for reformed offenders to seal their criminal records and therefore increase their odds of joining the workforce.


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"I would ask Minnesota employers to get past one strike and you're over,” Dayton said at a Wednesday morning signing ceremony.

Rep. Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing) and Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, who lead the push for the expungement bill, said the new law gives reformed offenders a second chance at getting a job and supporting their families.

“Nearly one in five Minnesotans have an arrest or criminal record,” said Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, who authored the bill in the Senate. “The use of online criminal record checks by employers and landlords has skyrocketed as they evaluate candidates for employment and housing. Unfortunately, online records are often inaccurate, incomplete or misinterpreted.”

WHAT THE BILL DOES

Essentially, the law provides a path for those who have committed low-level crimes to ask a judge to expunge their records so they may qualify for housing and get a job. 

"People can't turn their lives around and become law-abiding citizens, if they have no hope of finding a decent job or a place to live," said Dayton. "This law provides a chance for them to put their pasts behind them and live better lives.”

State law allows judges to expunge criminal records for certain offenders, but a Minnesota Supreme Court decision on the previous law limited judges to wiping out court records and not those collected by state agencies, including the Minnesota Department of Human Services. That meant those offenses were still showing up on background checks. 

One provision of the bill hopes to correct that problem by requiring business screening services to delete records if they know a criminal record has been sealed, expunged, or is the subject of a pardon.

WHO IS AFFECTED?

Supporters of the bill say the current law punishes too many people like Katie Tourand, who has a record for drug possession but just graduated from Carlson School with a marketing degree and saw three good job offers rescinded over her criminal record.

"I understand that people need to be held accountable and sometimes can't hold certain jobs, but what I don't understand is the perpetual punishment I have had to endure after almost a decade of being crime free and proving myself," she said.

The new law also clarifies that records related to juvenile delinquency can be expunged and it also provides clear standards for considering such cases.

CHANGES GO INTO EFFECT JAN. 1

Lawmakers say the bill is not a "get out of your past free" card. The law will not go in effect until after the new year, and offenders must wait five years after completing their probation before they can approach a judge to have their records wiped clean.

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