A new year means new chances for those with previous convictions in Minnesota. On January 1st, a state law went into effect allowing people with misdemeanors and some felonies to petition a judge to determine whether or not they can have their criminal records sealed.
The move opens the door for struggling jobseekers who previously couldn’t land good employment because of the past.
“I feel like I’ve been crucified for one moment in my life that doesn’t define who I am,” commented Otsego resident Sherry Niesen, according to a report from KARE11. Ostego, like many others, is hoping the new law gives her a second chance after she was convicted nearly 5 years ago of a misdemeanor assault charge related to a tough divorce.
While judges already had the authority to expunge records, the new law gives them even more power to do so, not just enabling them to seal court records, but also those held by local agencies and the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Business screening service providers will also have to comply by deleting a person’s records should they be expunged.
“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,” stated Governor Mark Dayton through a press release when signing the law back in May.
Minnesota has been a leading state in criminal background reform. In 2014, the state’s “Ban the Box” initiative stopped the practice of employers asking jobseekers about their criminal history on initial applications.
Additionally, the new expungement laws in Minnesota offer liability protections for employers who may hire without the aid of an expunged person’s records.
It’s currently estimated that the high majority of employers rely on criminal background checks when weighing a job applicant’s candidacy. Meanwhile, as many as 1 in 5 residents have criminal background records.