IN COURT OF APPEALS
K.M.M., a/k/a K.M.H., a/k/a K.M.F., a/k/a K.M.M.,
Filed September 12, 2006
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded
Dakota County District Court
File Nos. K7-00-3202, K4-00-3514, C2269, C4845
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and
James C. Backstrom, Dakota County Attorney, Cheri A. Townsend, Assistant County Attorney, Dakota County Judicial Center, 1560 Highway 55, Hastings, MN 55033 (for respondent
Considered and decided by Ross, Presiding Judge; Shumaker, Judge; and Wright, Judge.
S Y L L A B U S
When the state dismisses a grand-jury indictment and elects not to prosecute the charge further, the grand-jury proceedings are considered to be resolved in favor of the petitioner for purposes of expungement of the records.
O P I N I O N
Appellant challenges the district court’s denial of her petition for expungement of records pertaining to criminal convictions and a dismissed homicide indictment, arguing that the district court had both statutory authority and the inherent power to expunge her records. We affirm the district court’s denial of the petition for expungement of appellant’s criminal convictions on statutory grounds, but reverse and remand for appropriate findings as to expungement of the criminal convictions under the court’s inherent authority and for findings as to expungement of the indictment under statutory and inherent authority.
In 2005, K.M.M. filed a petition with the district court under Minn. Stat. § 609A.03 (2004) to expunge all records pertaining to her 1982 forgery conviction, 1985 conviction of wrongfully obtaining public assistance, and 2000 dismissed indictment for first-degree and second-degree murder. She alleged in her petition that this “background information” caused her termination from her full-time job, prevented her from getting other jobs, and made it difficult to find suitable housing for her and her family.
The court denied the petition, ruling that it lacked authority to expunge records relating to the criminal convictions “because those proceedings were not resolved in [K.M.M.’s] favor” and that K.M.M. had failed to satisfy the statutory requisites for expungement of records relating to the dismissed indictment.
Contending that the court erred in denying her petition, K.M.M. appealed.
A statute provides that a person may petition to seal records pertaining to criminal charges against that person if the proceedings were resolved in the person’s favor. The state dismissed a murder indictment against appellant and elected not to prosecute further. Ruling that it lacked authority to consider appellant’s petition because proceedings were not resolved in appellant’s favor, the district court denied the petition.
Did the district court err in its ruling?
Appellate courts review a district
court order granting or denying the expungement of criminal records for an
abuse of discretion. State v. Davisson, 624 N.W.2d 292, 296
(Minn. App. 2001), review denied (
Statutory authority for expungement
of criminal records is provided in Minn. Stat. §§ 609A.01-.03 (2004), which
govern the grounds and procedures for expungement of three categories of
records: (1) comprehensive law-enforcement records, described in section 13.82,
collected or created by agencies that perform a law-enforcement function; (2)
records under section 152.18 relating to the deferred prosecution of first-time
drug offenders; and (3) identification records, noted in section 299C.11,
furnished to the bureau of criminal apprehension by sheriffs and police
records may be expunged in two ways.
First, if the person who is the subject of the records has not been
convicted of a felony or gross misdemeanor within ten years immediately
preceding the determination of all criminal matters in that person’s favor, and
either all charges were dismissed before probable cause was found or the
prosecutor declined to file charges and the grand jury did not indict the
person, that person may demand, without a formal petition, the return of all
bureau-of-criminal-apprehension identification records.
second way to obtain an expungement is through a formal petition based on the
grounds provided in section 609A.02.
K.M.M.’s criminal convictions do not qualify for expungement under Minn. Stat. § 609A.02, subd. 3. Even though they are not subject to section 299C.11(b), they were not actions or proceedings resolved in K.M.M.’s favor, as required for expungement under the statute.
If K.M.M.’s indictment is not subject to section 299C.11(b), and if it can be said that the murder proceedings were resolved in her favor, she has established a ground for a 609A.03 petition.
“Whether all proceedings were resolved in petitioner’s favor is a question of law this court reviews de novo.” Davisson, 624 N.W.2d at 295. A grand jury returned a two-count murder indictment against K.M.M. The state later dismissed the indictment and brought no further charges against K.M.M.
a proceeding was resolved in the petitioner’s favor “turns on whether there has
been an admission or a finding of guilt.”
State v. C.P.H., 707 N.W.2d
699, 703 (
murder charges were dismissed only after the grand jury returned its
indictment. “[A grand jury’s] indictment
represents the grand jury’s decision that there is probable cause to believe
that an offense has been committed and that the defendant committed it.” State v. Carriere, 290 N.W.2d 618, 620
Because K.M.M. has shown that the records pertaining to her indictment are not subject to section 299C.11(b), and because the murder proceedings were resolved in her favor, as required by section 609A.02, subd. 3, the district court is required to grant the petition to expunge through sealing the records “unless the 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.” Minn. Stat. § 609A.03, subd. 5(b) (2004).
its ruling on the indictment records, the district court relied only on section
299C.11 (2004). This was error because,
as we have noted, that section is not applicable, and K.M.M. has demonstrated a
proper ground for expungement under section 609A.02, subd. 3. Once a ground for expungement under that
section is shown, the court must perform the balancing test of section 609A.03,
the district court did not address section 609A.02, subds. 3, 5(b), this record
is inadequate for meaningful review. See State v. Plant, 280
district court also has inherent power to expunge as a matter of equity, which
this court reviews for abuse of discretion.
Ambaye, 616 N.W.2d at
261. This inherent authority is
exercisable (1) when petitioner’s constitutional rights may be seriously
infringed by retention of the records; or (2) when constitutional rights are
not involved, but the court determines that “expungement will yield a benefit
to the petitioner commensurate with the disadvantages to the public from the elimination
of the record and the burden on the court in issuing, enforcing, and monitoring
an expungement order.”
K.M.M. argues that the state has not met its burden as to any of the records on the issue of inherent authority and has failed to overcome the statutory presumption as to the indictment records. Considering our standard of review, it is appropriate that the district court make appropriate findings as to both the propriety of the exercise of its inherent authority and as to the section 609A.03, subd. 5, balancing test. In making its findings, the court in its discretion may rely on the record already created or may allow additional evidence and argument as it deems appropriate.
D E C I S I O N
Thus, we affirm the district court’s determination that K.M.M. is not entitled to statutory expungement of records pertaining to her criminal convictions but reverse and remand as to the remaining statutory issues and as to the issue of inherent authority.
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.