Oct. 14—MANKATO — The Blue Earth County Attorney's Office is offering help sealing criminal records for minor offenses.
The office announced this week it will file expungement requests at no cost for people who were convicted of an eligible crime in Blue Earth County.
Expungement is the legal process making a criminal conviction no longer a matter of public record. The conviction is not erased but access is limited to court officers, prosecutors, law enforcement officers and some state agencies.
County Attorney Pat McDermott said the goal is to prevent minor criminal histories from blocking employment and educational opportunities and stable housing. The "collateral consequences" of a conviction often are worse than the court-imposed sentence, he said.
He cited a graduate of the Blue Earth County Drug Court as an example. The graduate has gone on to get a post-secondary degree and recently was offered a well-paying job. But then the prospective employer conducted a background check, found the graduate had a criminal history and was not allowed by policy to employ the graduate.
Low-level drug crimes are among the 50 nonviolent offenses eligible for expungement in Minnesota. Other common eligible charges include theft and property damage.
For most crimes there is a waiting period before eligibility. Expungements must be approved by a county judge. People with multiple convictions may be denied.
The county has created a website with more information about eligibility and the application process. It also has launched an online application form. Go to www.blueearthcountymn.gov/sealmyrecord.
Blue Earth County is now among only five counties in the state that offer expungement services, along with the Attorney General's Office.
People also can file for expungements independently but there is a court fee of $300. The County Attorney's Office does not pay that fee when filing on someone's behalf, McDermott said.
The fee and either the cost of hiring an attorney to file the papers or the stress of attempting to do it oneself are barriers McDermott said his office seeks to eliminate.
County attorneys will work on expungements when time permits in between their other duties, McDermott said. They're aiming to process all applications within a month, but the wait could be longer especially in the near term.
The program was announced Wednesday and 15 applications were received that day.