Can Drug Charges Be Expunged?


Many states have laws that expressly exclude drug and alcohol charges from being eligible for expungement. Expungement is the process by which a person may petition to have a criminal conviction set aside or sealed.

What is Considered a Drug Charge?

Although it may seem fairly obvious what a drug charge is; there are many variant charges and convictions that are in this class. Drug offenses include but are not limited to; possession, possession with intent to sell, driving while intoxicated, driving under the influence, possession of a hypodermic needle, cultivating marijuana, manufacturing methamphetamine and many other drug specific crimes depending on the state of conviction.

Some drug charges are such a big deal that they are considered to be federal drug charges. These types of charges definitely require a consultation with an experienced attorney.

Why Not Drug and Alcohol Charges?

Often, people commit crimes directly in relation to their drug and alcohol use. Driving while intoxicated, theft and violence are all consequences of alcoholism and addiction. Hence, if a person achieves sobriety; they are an entirely different person and their previous criminal record haunts them.

Approximately 80% of incarcerated criminals are imprisoned because of crimes committed in relation to drugs and alcohol or while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Also, approximately 50% of incarcerated people are considered to be “clinically addicted”.

So, why would many states exclude drug and alcohol charges from being eligible for expungement if these offenses often have a direct link to the disease/mental disorder of addiction?

Some say that drug and alcohol convictions are excluded from being eligible for expungement because of the 60 to 80% recidivism rate of criminals charged with drug and alcohol related crimes. If a drug or alcohol related crime is expunged then, in theory, a repeat offender (and there is a high likelihood that they will repeat) would be treated as a first time offender.

Minnesota Laws on Expungement of Drug Related Charges

The Minnesota statute related to expungement of drug charges does not have a verbatim exclusion thereof. However, it would appear that the charges are only eligible for expungement if the offender was compliant with the Court at the time of the conviction.

One of the grounds for a statutory expungement is found in MN. Stat. Rev. 609A.02, subd. 1, “a person may seek an expungement of a drug charges in which the person received a statutory stay of adjudication for 4th or 5th degree drug possession cases”.

This generally means that the Judge offered the Defendant the option to complete a diversion program. The “stay of adjudication” would be essentially putting the conviction on hold until the completion of the program. Upon completion the Defendant may have the charges reduced and at a later date seek an expungement of that conviction.

Hence, in the state of Minnesota it is possible to have a drug conviction expunged but only likely for first time offenders and or for lesser charges.