Minnesota gives 2nd chance to past offenders

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota judges have been granted greater ability to permanently seal criminal records of people who have fulfilled punishment and have taken concrete steps to turn their lives around, under legislation Gov. Mark Dayton signed Wednesday.

It revises laws dictating how record expungements are done and would wall off certain arrest or court records for successful petitioners, leaving the information out of background checks. Backers say old crimes can forever hinder past offenders seeking jobs or housing and that sometimes records on file don’t accurately reflect what transpired as cases moved through the system.

“We’re talking about giving people second chances, people who made one or two mistakes when they were young and who unfortunately have been unable to move on,” said Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing.

People would have to wait two to four years after probation is complete to petition to seal misdemeanor records and at least five years for nonviolent felonies. The new law deems some crimes too severe to expunge.

Business screening services would have to delete records that are sealed or expunged. Prosecutors and law enforcement would still have access for investigations, prosecutions or sentencing in new crimes.

In signing the bill, Dayton implored employers “to get beyond this one strike and you’re out forever approach.”

Moments earlier, Katie Tourand shared a personal story about having job offers extended then rescinded when employers learned of two low-level convictions from many years earlier.

“I understand people need to be held accountable and sometimes can’t hold certain jobs. What I don’t understand is the perpetual punishment I have had to endure after close to a decade of being crime-free and proving myself,” she said. “I still won’t be able to apply for an expungement until 2016, but I look forward to the day I can so I can hopefully finally move beyond the past and be considered for the person I am today.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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