Expunging Stay of Imposition Records – Update
The biggest ambiguity in the new expungement law is how courts will treat stay of imposition records. The question the courts will have to answer: is the conviction considered a felony (which the petitioner was originally charged and pled guilty to) or a misdemeanor (as the conviction is now deemed by operation of law)? Courts have answered this question both ways depending on the applicable statute in play.
The Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear a case in mid-January that focuses on this very issue. To date, district courts have yet to find a consistent answer. Though, a recent Ramsey County decision goes to great lengths in concluding and explaining that a felony that is converted to a misdemeanor by operation of the stay of imposition agreement shall be considered a misdemeanor for expungement purposes.
When ruling that a 3rd Degree Drug Sales record may be expunged, the Ramsey County Court held the following:
- The following expungement statutory language is not ambiguous: “petitioner was convicted of or received a stayed sentence for a [misdemeanor or felony] ….”
- The “was convicted of” language refers to what the record is considered at the time of the filing of the petition – i.e. a misdemeanor, not a felony.
- The “received a stayed sentence for” language is inapplicable because no sentence was ever imposed pursuant to the stay of imposition agreement.
The Court’s analysis is much more detailed and nuanced. Importantly, it is well-reasoned and will hopefully serve as guidance for the Court of Appeals when it decides the pending case.
If the Court of Appeals rules in favor of this analysis, it will make many more records eligible for an expungement. To wit, the limitation on what felony records are eligible would no longer apply when the record is analyzed as a misdemeanor because all misdemeanors are eligible for a statutory expungement. This is why the Ramsey County Court was able to expunge a 3rd Degree Drug Sales record, which would have been ineligible if it were considered a felony.
The other benefit to the record being considered a misdemeanor is that the waiting period shrinks from five- to two-years. The bottom line – expunging stay of imposition records is more viable now than before.
If you have a criminal record that was resolved via a stay of imposition, you have a strong argument that your record is eligible for a statutory expungement as a misdemeanor conviction. You should be sure to hire a Minnesota expungement attorney to help guide you through the process and prepare your best arguments. Undoubtedly, the State attorneys will argue in opposition, making an experienced expungement attorney necessary to best fight for you.