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Ramsey, Washington counties roll out effort to help residents seal criminal records

Updated: October 03, 2019 06:24 PM

On Thursday, the county attorneys for Ramsey and Washington counties rolled out a new effort to help residents who have a criminal record seal their records.

The two east metro counties launched helpsealmyrecord.org, which allows those who have been convicted of a crime and who have completed their sentences to appeal to have their criminal record sealed.

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"Prosecutors are ministers of justice – it is our legal and ethical responsibility to help people who have paid their debt to society to remove the scarlet letter of a criminal conviction, along with the barriers it creates to accessing jobs, housing, education and other necessities in life," Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said in a statement.

During a press conference on Thursday, Choi said some of the cases that would be eligible to be sealed would include low-level drug possession, theft, receiving stolen property, property damage, forgery, check or credit card fraud and others.

"I also want to make absolutely clear, we recognize that public safety does require that our community know about people who have committed serious and violent crimes such as murder, sex offenses, physical and sexual assault or repeated criminal conduct," Choi said. "And that's exactly why the legislature designed the law so that none of those offenses are eligible."

Sealing criminal records, also known as expungement, has been available to Minnesota residents with records that qualify since 1996, according to the Ramsey County Attorney's Office.

"It's the criminal justice system which has really taken a branding iron to people. Some deserve it, but what about those who make one mistake, once in their life," said Choi.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said this is not changing the law.

"What we’re doing is simply saying that there is an online process for this, and it will be subject to the same rigor that is in the statue now ... We’re making it online, and we’re overcoming some of the hurdles that are already in the law within the discretion of the prosecutor, so this is simply expediting a legal process that exists now," Ellison said.

There will be a Twin Cities Expungement Fair on Saturday, Oct. 5th from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the High School for Performing Arts, located at 1166 University Avenue W., in St. Paul, where people can learn more about the expungement process.

"I get about 400 young people a year come into my office with a small amount of felony drugs, and you know what happens?" said Washington County Attorney Pete Orput. "No student loans, your housing is restricted, you may not even be able to get into college. Well, what am I doing to help that person get off of their drugs? Throw them in jail, and that’s the right thing to do? No. The right thing to do is get them back on track."

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Brandi Powell

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