Minnesota gives criminals second chance
ST. PAUL -- Minnesotans convicted of crimes long ago, but who have turned their lives around, may get a new lease on life.
A bill Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law Wednesday gives judges more options to permanently seal records of reformed offenders.
The new law is meant to help people with criminal backgrounds to have an easier time finding homes and housing. It is a process known as "expungement."
After signing the bill, Gov. Mark Dayton said that people deserve a second chance.
"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," Dayton said. "This law provides a chance for them to put their pasts behind them and live better lives."
The bill clarifies that if a person successfully completes a diversion program and is not charged with a new crime for at least two years, he could be eligible for expungement. He must show that his record is making finding a job or housing difficult.
“We know these laws have been unclear for a number of years now,” House bill sponsor Rep. Carly Melin, D-Hibbing, told the House Ways and Means Committee March 26. “With some recent state Supreme Court decisions it became even more unclear, and the Supreme Court basically kicked it back to the Legislature and said we need to do something to address the expungement issue and when it comes to collateral consequences associated with criminal records.”
Melin added that the bill should allow some with criminal backgrounds to find it possible to receive education opportunities such as advanced degrees.
Senate bill sponsor Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, D-Minneapolis, said that nearly one in five Minnesotans has a criminal record and the increasing use of online record checks by employers and landlords is making things difficult for some people.
"Unfortunately, online records are often inaccurate, incomplete or misinterpreted," the senator said.
Contributing to this story was Mike Cook of Session Daily, a nonpartisan publication (www.house.leg.state.mn.us/sessiondaily) in the Minnesota House Public Information Office.