RAMSEY COUNTY EXPUNGEMENT
Minnesota criminal defense lawyer John Arechigo recently obtained another expungement for a former client. The former conviction was only for a misdemeanor theft, so there’s nothing particularly extraordinary about getting a misdemeanor theft expunged. What was different about this case, however, is that the expungement followed a dismissal after the client successfully completed the Ramsey County diversion program known as Project Remand.
Several Minnesota counties have a diversion program for criminal cases. A diversion program removes, or diverts, a criminal case from criminal court. The defendant must complete the conditions of the diversion program and remain law-abiding during the length of the program, usually one year. The criminal charge is then dismissed upon successful completion of the diversion program. Diversion programs are a great opportunity for certain first-time offenders to avoid a criminal conviction.
The new Minnesota expungement law provides that successful diversion program participants are entitled to have their record expunged. However, the new expungement law grouped diversion program cases together with individuals who received what’s known as a Stay of Adjudication in their criminal case. A Stay of Adjudication and a diversion program are sort of the same thing in that they both result in a criminal charge being dismissed after successful completion of certain conditions; however, there is also a significant difference between the two.
In a Stay of Adjudication, a criminal defendant stands in front of the judge and admits wrongdoing by pleading guilty to a criminal charge. The guilty plea is not used against the defendant to convict; instead, the court stays – or suspends – finding the defendant guilty and places the defendant on a period of probation. The criminal charge is then dismissed upon successful completion of the probationary period. With a diversion program, the criminal defendant is typically not required to admit any wrongdoing or enter a guilty plea. The criminal case is simply removed from criminal court without any formal proceedings.
EXPUNGEMENTS: STAY OF ADJUDICATION VS. DIVERSION PROGRAM
Minnesota’s new expungement law has a specific provision addressing expungement eligibility following a stay of adjudication. The law requires the individual to wait one additional year after the charge has been dismissed before the case is eligible to be expunged. There’s the one-year probationary period with a stay of adjudication after which the criminal charge is dismissed. The individual must then wait one more year with no new criminal offenses before their record is eligible to be expunged.
The Minnesota expungement law seemingly imposes this same one-year waiting period for diversion program cases. However, unlike a stay of adjudication, there is no admission of wrongdoing in diversion program cases. Because there’s no admission, there’s an argument to be made that dismissal following successful completion of a diversion program is essentially the same as an outright dismissal. Individuals who have had their criminal charge dismissed are immediately eligible for an expungement.
This is the argument we made in our recent Ramsey County expungement case. Most judges have been requiring the additional one-year waiting period following completion of a diversion program before considering a case eligible for expungement. Minnesota criminal defense and expungement lawyer John Arechigo argued that the court should treat his client’s diversion program dismissal like an outright dismissal and grant the expungement before the one-year waiting period. The judge agreed and granted the expungement. John Arechigo was able to obtain the expungement only a couple months after his client’s charge had been dismissed. The client was extremely happy that the court did not require the one-year waiting period.