AG Ellison, state lawmakers highlight ‘Clean Slate Act’ ahead of expungement clinic

AG Ellison, state lawmakers highlight ‘Clean Slate Act’ ahead of expungement clinic

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(KSTP) – State leaders are trying to raise awareness about how they can help remove obstacles many Minnesotans face in their lives due to old violations.

On Monday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and other state leaders came together to discuss the impact of the “Clean Slate Act,” which was signed into law earlier this year and is designed to make the expungement process easier.

“People who have paid their debt to society should have an opportunity for redemption. But too often, a criminal record impacts a person’s ability to obtain housing, a job, or an education,” Rep. Jamie Long (DFL-Minneapolis) said. “Now that this initiative has become law, I’m hopeful those eligible can take advantage to reach a new potential in front of them with a clean slate.”

Gov. Tim Walz signed the legislation into law back in March, and some Minnesotans already have the ability to remove certain convictions from their records that could otherwise act as barriers to education, employment and housing.

However, the process of getting those convictions removed can be complicated and time-consuming.

The removals have to be reviewed and approved by prosecutors or go through a court process.

This new law tries to make it easier to create a new automatic expungement process for certain non-violent offenses.

“Roughly a quarter of Minnesotans have a record that can create barriers to housing, employment, and educational opportunities,” Sen. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Minneapolis) said. “Thousands of our neighbors facing these barriers are eligible for expungement, and the Clean Slate Act will make that process automatic. Attorney General Ellison’s upcoming expungement clinic is a great opportunity to learn more and begin the process of moving forward.”

Gina Evans from the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition testified before state lawmakers earlier this year. Evans says she spent 15 years battling meth addiction, bad relationships and criminal behavior. That led her to the Shakopee prison three times.

Now, Evans says she hasn’t committed a crime in 21 years, but having her criminal past still on her record made it difficult to move on.

“For landlords or employers that don’t understand the law, it might as well still be there. There are other folks just like me out there who have made mistakes but have changed their lives. Worked really hard to change their lives. People who have potential to do and be so much more. If only we can remove barriers to success in employment and housing and allow this path to redemption,” said Evans.

Supporters say the hope is this change will help even more Minnesotans with a criminal past find a stable future.

While the law doesn’t formally take effect until Jan. 1, 2025, state leaders say Minnesotans can get the process rolling or learn more about it already.

Ellison’s office is hosting an event on Wednesday to help people with this process. It’ll take place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 1101 West Broadway in Minneapolis and is free for all to attend.

Ellison says anyone who has a criminal record they want sealed and meets the eligibility requirements can apply to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office for help to get that record sealed. Those offenses that are eligible are low-level, non-violent crimes, like theft, forgery, property damage or fifth-degree drug possession.