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Can a DWI Conviction Be Expunged in Minnesota?

A conviction for driving while impaired (DWI) can follow you for the rest of your life. In addition to the potential for jail time, a conviction could also make it difficult for you to hold down a job or find suitable housing. If you’re asking can a DWI conviction be expunged in Minnesota, the good news is that some misdemeanor DWI convictions may be expunged according to Minnesota law.

While you might have the right to pursue expungement, success is not guaranteed. That said, putting your case in the hands of an experienced attorney could result in your best opportunity to obtain an expungement. To learn more about your options, contact the attorneys of Gerald Miller right away.

Expunging DWI Convictions in Minnesota

It is possible to obtain an expungement for misdemeanor DWI convictions. For a fourth-degree DWI, you can seek expungement beginning two years from the date the sentence is discharged. Second- and third-degree DWI convictions are considered gross misdemeanors, meaning you must wait four years from the date the sentence is discharged to pursue expungement. While there is a hard time limit related to filing the petition, you can speak with an attorney before that deadline is met. This could allow you to move forward with an expungement petition the moment you qualify.

First-degree DWI is a felony in Minnesota. Under current state law, it is impossible to expunge a felony DWI under any circumstances. With that in mind, your best bet is to avoid a conviction entirely.

It is important to remember that while expungement might be possible, there is guarantee that the judge in your case will grant one. Some courts are reluctant to expunge DWI offenses compared to other misdemeanors. Because of this, it is vital to make the strongest case for expungement possible in your petition. If the court does not find your reasoning compelling, they might not agree to an expungement even if you otherwise qualify. Your legal counsel can help ensure you make the strongest case possible.

Factors the Court Must Weigh on DWI Expungement

If you’re asking can a DWI conviction be expunged in Minnesota, you should know that ultimately, the presiding judge will make the decision of whether or not to expunge a DWI conviction. However, state law provides substantial guidance on how the court should come to that decision. According to Minnesota Statute Section 609A.03, the court should grant expungement unless agency or jurisdiction whose records would be affected establishes by clear and convincing evidence that the interests of the public and public safety outweigh the disadvantages to the petitioner of not sealing the record. When the court makes this decision, they will weigh the following twelve factors:

  1. the nature and severity of the underlying crime, the record of which would be sealed;
  2. the risk, if any, the petitioner poses to individuals or society;
  3. the length of time since the crime occurred;
  4. the steps taken by the petitioner toward rehabilitation following the crime;
  5. aggravating or mitigating factors relating to the underlying crime, including the petitioner’s level of participation and context and circumstances of the underlying crime;
  6. the reasons for the expungement, including the petitioner’s attempts to obtain employment, housing, or other necessities;
  7. the petitioner’s criminal record;
  8. the petitioner’s record of employment and community involvement;
  9. the recommendations of interested law enforcement, prosecutorial, and corrections officials;
  10. the recommendations of victims or whether victims of the underlying crime were minors;
  11. the amount, if any, of restitution outstanding, past efforts made by the petitioner toward payment, and the measures in place to help ensure completion of restitution payment after expungement of the record if granted; and
  12. other factors deemed relevant by the court.

The Process for Seeking DWI Expungement in Minnesota

The statute also spells out the process for pursuing expungement in Minnesota. The process itself is similar to a civil lawsuit in that it has service requirements. After filing the petition, a petitioner must meet these service requirements before the expungement case can move forward. This begins with mailing a copy of the petition for expungement as well as the proposed expungement order to the prosecutor who had jurisdiction over the offense at the time of the conviction. Additionally, a petitioner must also notify any other state or local agencies whose records would be impacted by an expungement.

Once they receive the petition, the prosecutor is required to notify any victims of the criminal act of the request for expungement. This is rarely an issue for DWI cases. This notice informs any victims of the opportunity to be heard at the impending expungement hearing.

The prosecutor or any other government agency served with the petition has the opportunity to submit data to the court that it feels is a necessary part of its response. This could include private, identifying information regarding the defendant. When the state offers this type of private information, the petitioner will have an opportunity to ask the court to seal this information from public view In fact, the petitioner can ask to have their private records sealed at the time they are filing their petition with the court.

DWI Hearing in Minnesota

Once all of the documentation is complete and service has been achieved, the court will schedule a hearing on the expungement petition. There is a natural delay for this hearing built into the wording of the statute. According to the statute, a hearing may not take place any sooner than 60 days following the service of the petition. This means it could be months after filing a petition before the court hears the petition. This delay is to allow the state to determine if they will object to the petition or not. It is also intended to give any victims of a crime time to prepare a response of their own. The statement written by the victim must include the harm they have suffered as well as their preferred outcome in the case. While the court does not have to heed their request, a judge must hear them out.

Avoiding a DWI Conviction in the First Place

When it comes to a DWI conviction, the better outcome is to avoid a conviction in the first place. This could be possible in a few different ways. The best possible outcome for anyone arrested under suspicion of DWI in Minnesota is to have the charges against them dropped by the prosecutor. While this outcome is far from guaranteed, a strong defense strategy could push the state to let these charges go.

There are a few defense strategies that have a strong chance to result in a dismissal. Challenging the legality of the traffic stop or the accuracy of the breath test are two of the most common options.

Sometimes, even the strongest defense available will not push the prosecutor to drop charges. After all, many prosecutors are under tremendous pressure to secure DWI convictions. Others wrongly assume they can obtain a conviction even without strong evidence.

When a dismissal is not possible, the best option available could be to take the case to trial. At trial, an acquittal brings the charges against you to an end. Following an acquittal, the state can never charge you based on the same allegations again. Securing an acquittal could return you to a sense of normalcy given that it will essentially be as if you were never charged in the first place.

Obtaining these favorable outcomes in a DWI cases can be possible, but doing so is rarely easy. If you have been arrested for a DWI, the attorneys of Gerald Miller could put you in the best position to resolve your case in a favorable way.

Our team has a track record of securing dismissals and acquittals for our clients. We aggressively pursue every case as if we were certain it will go to trial. This approach ensures we are prepared for trial, but it also establishes to the prosecution that we will not accept anything less than a fair outcome.

Talk to a Minneapolis DWI Defense Attorney About DWI Expungement

Some individuals convicted of DWI in Minnesota have had success with expunging their convictions. Unfortunately, this is limited to misdemeanor cases. Even with a misdemeanor, there is no guarantee that the court will grant your petition.

Avoiding the consequences of a DWI conviction is easiest by avoiding a conviction in the first place. Many DWI cases are defensible. If you feel pressure to plead guilty following an arrest, you could benefit from speaking with an attorney first. If you are facing DWI charges in Minnesota, the attorneys of Gerald Miller are ready to help. Call right away to schedule your free consultation.


This article was originally published on December 9, 2020 and updated on July 5, 2021.

About the author

Kyle Dreger

Kyle Dreger is a skilled DUI/DWI and Criminal Defense lawyer at Gerald Miller P.A. Kyle has received his law degree from the University of St. Thomas School of Law. He is also a professionally trained basketball player.

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