A criminal record can follow a person around for a long time, potentially affecting his or her ability to find a place to live or a new job. Under certain circumstances, it may be possible to place previous convictions under seal so that the public will no longer have access to the records. Courts in Minnesota refer to this action as an expungement, while in other states, it may go by the term "expunction."
According to Minnesota statutes, expungement is not available for every offense. It is available for certain criminal proceedings, certain controlled substance offenses and juveniles prosecuted as adults. Even then, expungement only becomes available upon meeting particular conditions relating to the offense and the penalties it incurs.
Expungement does not completely erase a person's criminal record. Rather, according to FindLaw, it restricts who can access it. Criminal courts, law enforcement and other government agencies will still be able to see the records, and previous expunged convictions may come up during subsequent legal proceedings if the person goes on trial for new crimes committed after the expungement.
However, the information in an expunged record will not be available to the public, meaning that the information will not come up in a background check or public records examination, nor does the person who has received the expungement need to disclose the information to a potential landlord, an educational institution or on a job application, even if asked about criminal history or past convictions
"Setting aside a criminal conviction" is another way to describe expungement.