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What are Minnesota Criminal Court Records?
Minnesota Criminal Court records are official court documents providing details of the proceedings of criminal cases. These records, mostly available from the office of the court clerk, include documents received and generated by court in the course of criminal case trials and hearings. Examples of Criminal Court records are case files, dockets, transcripts, court orders, and court calendars. Most of these records are available to the public while some are sealed or redacted to limit public access.
Understanding the Minnesota Criminal Court System
Criminal Courts in Minnesota are Divisions of District Courts. The District Courts are trial courts that handle most civil and criminal cases in the state. In the Minnesota State Court System, these are the courts of “original instance”. However, a criminal trial can proceed beyond these courts when their final decisions are appealed. Therefore, the Minnesota Court of Appeals can hear appeals of criminal cases first heard in the Criminal Court divisions of the District Court. Certain criminal cases can go further than the Court of Appeals to the Minnesota Supreme Court. These include appeals from the Minnesota Court of Appeals and appeals from the Criminal Courts in cases involving first-degree murder.
Are Minnesota Criminal Court Records Available to the Public?
Most of the records of Minnesota Criminal Courts are available to the public. Criminal records, in general and by default, are public records in the state. Therefore, members of the public can request and gain access to these records as well as make copies of records maintained by the clerks of court. However, there are exceptions to this open access policy. As detailed in the Minnesota Rules of Public Access to Records of the Judicial Branch, Criminal Court records identifying minors are sealed. In addition to information about juveniles, the court also limits access to records containing medical information. Similarly, Minnesota Criminal Court records sealed by court orders are not available to the public.
How to Access Minnesota Criminal Court Records
The public can view and inspect Minnesota Criminal Court records:
- Online from the case records management system of the Minnesota Judicial Branch
- In person by visiting the courthouses where the cases were heard
To access the records of the state’s Criminal Courts online, visit the Minnesota District (Trial) Court Case Search portal and click the link leading to Criminal/Traffic/Petty Case Records. You may select a county to restrict your search to the records of the Criminal Courts in a particular county.
To access the records of criminal case appeals heard in Minnesota Court of Appeals and/or Supreme Court, visit the Minnesota Appellate Courts Case Management System. In addition to case records, this search portal also provides access to court opinions.
To view Minnesota Criminal Court records in person, visit the courthouse where the case was heard and records kept. Each District Court in the state has public access terminals and allows members of the public electronic access to the records of all courts in the state. These terminals provide access to more cases and offer more case details than online electronic records portals. Paper copies of the records of cases heard in the local District Court are also available for inspection at each courthouse.
Publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third party sites are not government sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.
How to Request Copies of Minnesota Criminal Court Records
Minnesota District Courts accept requests for Criminal Court records in person and by mail. All requests go through the Records Center of the local District Court. To request copies of Criminal Court records in person, visit the District Court where the case was heard. Contact information for all Minnesota District Courts are available on the website of the Minnesota Judicial Branch. Call ahead to enquire about the availability of the records you want and when to visit the Records Center.
The first step to requesting Criminal Court records by mail is visiting the website of the District Court in the county where the case was heard. Download the Copy Request Form on the website and complete it. Include copies of identification card and other documents requested as well as a check or money order for copy fees. Send the request to the address listed on the form and/or the District Court website.
How Do I Request Criminal History Records in Minnesota?
The Minnesota Criminal History System (CHS) is a database of information on individuals arrested for felony and misdemeanor offenses in the state. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) maintain the state’s CHS and allows the public to search the information contained. Members of the public can use the Minnesota Public Criminal History Search to find the following information on anyone:
- Felony and misdemeanor offenses
- Courts of convictions
- Conviction dates
The CHS makes criminal conviction information public for 15 years after convicted individuals complete their sentences. While comprehensive, Minnesota Criminal History Records do not contain information about:
- Law enforcement arrests
- Juvenile records
- Federal offenses and convictions
- Sealed, private, or confidential criminal records
Minnesota residents can request their own criminal history records and those of other residents of the state. Members of the public can request full criminal history records including public and private data by:
- Visiting BCA headquarters
- Sending mail requests
The BCA charges $15 for each request. This amount is payable with a money order or a personal, certified, business, or cashier’s check when requesting copies of criminal history records by US Mail. Checks and money order as well as cash are accepted for in-person requests.
To request a Minnesota Criminal History Record, visit or send a mail request to:
Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
Minnesota Justice Information Services - CHA Unit
1430 Maryland Ave E
St. Paul, MN 55106
Include a self-addressed stamped envelope and a check or money with your mail request. It takes 3 business days to complete a criminal history record request submitted in person.
Sealing Your Minnesota Criminal Court Record
Individuals with criminal records can ask Minnesota Criminal Courts to seal or expunge their records. Noted that expunged records are not destroyed but sealed. While they are no longer accessible by the public, federal and state law enforcement officers can still access them. Before asking a judge for an expungement of criminal record, you must first obtain your criminal case history. This includes copies of criminal case history from a Minnesota District Court and the BCA. Next, obtain an Expungement Form and fill it requested details. You have to provide a good reason why you want an expungement and a legal reason why you believe you qualify for one.