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No expunging offender records

Published (6/1/2010)
By Mike Cook
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Rep. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Mpls) and Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park) sponsored a bill that would have let a prosecutor evaluate a first-time, low-level property or drug offender to determine if they should be presented an opportunity to participate in a diversion program that would lead to a record expungement.

If the offender were to complete terms of a diversion program or stay of adjudication agreed to by the prosecutor, and was not charged with a new crime for at least one year after completing the diversion program or stay of adjudication, he or she would have had their case dismissed. The bill would not have applied to felony-level crimes of violence.

However, Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed it, saying expungement of a criminal record should only be an “extraordinary remedy.”

“Perhaps the most fundamental obligation of state government is the safeguarding of its citizens, especially against the harm posed by criminal predation,” he wrote in his veto letter. “Our criminal justice system rightly imposes punishment on those who wrongfully harm others, while also recognizing the value of individual redemption.”

The record could have been sealed by the court without filing a petition “unless it determines that the interests of the public and public safety in keeping the record public outweigh the disadvantages to the subject of the record in not sealing it.” A prosecutor would have had to make a good-faith effort to inform victims of the crime about the agreement and give them an opportunity to object.

For sentencing purposes of a future crime, prosecutors or probation officers would have had access to the expunged record without a court order.

Supporters said the bill would help offenders who commit an innocuous crime find a road back to becoming positive, responsible residents of the community.

Champion said the bill was the result of two years of work by the Minnesota county attorneys and defense attorneys associations, Hennepin and Ramsey counties, the Council on Crime and Justice and “a number of other key stakeholders.” He said law enforcement officials were neutral on the bill.

HF891/ SF560*/CH381

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