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‘Clean Slate Act’ would offer forgiveness for certain misdemeanor offenses

Expungement is a legal term meaning to delete the court records of person accused or convicted of a crime.

An equivalent, non-legal term is forgiveness.

That is at the core of HF1152, the so-called “Clean Slate Act,” says sponsor Rep. Jamie Long (DFL-Mpls).

The bill would establish an automatic expungement process for certain non-felony, non-violent offenses.

“The Clean Slate Act bill has a simple premise, which is that we should give those who have paid their debt to society an opportunity for redemption,” he said.

Long spoke at a March 4 meeting of the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Committee, which heard public testimony before laying the bill over as amended.

On Friday, the bill received committee approval, 17-1, and was sent to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee.

The bill would make a person eligible for expungement relief if the underlying offense is:

  • a petty misdemeanor other than a traffic or parking violation;
  • a misdemeanor not involving assault, domestic violence offenses, and DWI; or
  • a gross misdemeanor not involving assault, burglary, domestic violence offenses, and DWI.

Individuals would be eligible if they have not been not charged or convicted of a new offense in Minnesota during an applicable waiting period, which is defined as two years for an eligible petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor and four years for an eligible gross misdemeanor.

He said one in four Minnesotans have some kind of criminal record, and 90% of employers conduct background checks.

“This adds up to being a real significant barrier to employment for tens of thousands of Minnesotans,” Long said, adding that the bill would help address the labor shortage in the state, which is especially dire in Greater Minnesota. He said housing and education can also be negatively affected.

The bill would require the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to identify persons eligible for expungement and to seal those records 60 days after sending notice to the judicial branch, unless an order or additional information informs the BCA that the records should not be sealed.

An expunged record could still be used for background checks run by the Department of Human Services and background checks performed by the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board.

Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes) sponsors the companion, SF1856, which awaits action by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.

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