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Expungement of Acquittal

“Expunging an acquittal? I was found not guilty. Why do I need an expungement to clear my record?”

Even if a jury finds you not guilty, the fact that the state charged you with a crime with still show on a criminal background check. Even more disturbing is if the police arrested you for a crime, but you were never formally charged, a detailed background check conducted by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) will likely still show your arrest for that crime.

Worse yet, if you take your case all the way to a jury trial and you win, then the state may oppose your petition to expunge that case from your record and the court may grant it! That exact scenario played out in State v. D.R.F. Thankfully, D.R.F. appealed the decision and the court of appeals reversed the district court’s decision last week.   

In June 2013, D.R.F. was awaiting trial on a third-degree criminal sexual conduct charge. Then, he absconded. The court forfeited his bond and issued a bench warrant. After bouncing around the country, D.R.F. was apprehended a year and a half later and was held until his trial in March 2015.

Even though a jury of twelve found D.R.F. not guilty, the prosecution opposed his expungement petition mainly because D.R.F. took off while he was awaiting trial. The prosecution wanted evidence of that fact in case D.R.F. got arrested again, they will need to evaluate bail for that potential new case. Evidence of absconding a felony for over a year would likely cause the prosecution to seek higher bail.

After a referee denied D.R.F.’s expungement petition, he appealed to the district court, and the district court affirmed. For the same reasons, the state noted in its opposition, the district denied the motion. The district court believed the prosecution established, by clear and convincing evidence, that the interests of the public and public safety outweigh the disadvantages to petitioner of not sealing the record under Minnesota Statutes Section 609A.03, subdivision 5(b). The district court noted “[s]hould this record be sealed the information would not be available for a court to consider.” The court of appeals shot down the district court’s reasoning.

In its reversal, the court of appeals stated “the district court offered no support for its implication that expungement may be denied to punish an acquitted defendant for misconduct before and during trial.” The court of appeals also scoffed at the hypothetical situation in which D.R.F. commits a new offense and needs a bail study is enough to meet the burden to deny his expungement.

Fortunately, the court of appeals reversed the district court and remanded to enter an order expunging D.R.F.’s record as it relates to this charge. But unfortunately, acquitted individuals still have to go through the expungement process to get their records cleared. Walking out onto the courthouse steps a free man, or woman, after a trial is just not enough to clear your name.

For a free consultation, please contact Ambrose Law Firm, PLLC at 651-800-4842 or email: ambroselegal@icloud.com.

Robert H. Ambrose is a criminal defense attorney in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. He handles expungements across the state and has achieved impeccable client satisfaction ratings. Expungement lawyer Minnesota; St. Paul MN Expungements; and Expungement lawyer Minneapolis.    

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