Not only is the experience of being stopped for DWI scary and stressful, but being convicted and worrying about how said conviction may affect one’s ability to get a job or a home can add to that stress. Even though Minnesota has participated in the Ban the Box law since 2014 wherein potential employers are prohibited from asking applicants about any criminal history on applicants’ initial employment applications to permit them the opportunity to be evaluated on their experience and skills, there is understandable worry that having a DWI on one’s record may negatively impact certain areas of one’s life.
At the present time, nearly one-in-seven Minnesotans has a DWI on his/her record, and almost half of these are first-time offenders.
It is possible to get a DWI conviction expunged from one’s record. Once expungement occurs, the subsequent sealed conviction cannot be seen during a background check by anyone except for law enforcement. Thus, potential employers and/or landlords will have no idea that the applicant had a DWI—or other—conviction.
In January 2015, the state of Minnesota enacted a new law that has simplified the expungement process for many misdemeanors and even certain felonies. Applicants are able to petition the court to have their criminal records sealed within a stated period of time after completing their time, whether this time was served in jail, on parole, or on probation. This time frame is generally between two and five years. Further, some applicants may be required to complete a diversion program or stay of adjudication before having their records sealed.
The ease of obtaining and possible time frame is dependent upon the degree of Minnesota DWI one has been convicted of; however, it is important to realize that even though the law doesn’t guarantee expungement, it does provide the possibility in certain cases.
Types of DWI expungements
There are four types of DWIs in Minnesota: 1st through 4th degree. 1st degree DWI is a felony and, pursuant to the state’s new expungement law, is ineligible for expungement at this time.
Both 2nd and 3rd degree DWIs are gross misdemeanors with 2nd degree having a greater severity. Pursuant to the state’s new expungement law, both of these types of DWIs may be expunged four years after the sentence has discharged as long as the individual has not received any other convictions; DWI or otherwise.
4th degree DWI is considered a misdemeanor, is usually reserved for first time offenders with blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) less than .16, and, therefore, is the most common type of DWI conviction in Minnesota. Under the new expungement law, 4th degree DWIs can be expunged two years after the sentence has discharged provided the individual has remained law-abiding.
The expungement process requires the applicant to appear in court and explain to the judge why s/he deserves the record be expunged. During this time, the state may deny the request; however, it is ultimately up to the judge to determine whether expungement will occur. Generally, applicants are notified as to whether the expungement has been granted after a waiting period. If it has, there is another 60-day waiting period before the conviction is sealed.
It his highly recommended to retain the services of an experienced and knowledgeable DWI attorney who can help navigate the complicated expungement process. Seeking counsel before one is able to actually file for expungement will make the entire process go more smoothly and can be highly beneficial for one’s outcome.