MN Court: Expunge man’s rape charge if he’s acquitted

In May 2012, a 19-year-old man — identified in court documents only as “D.R.F” — was accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl.

He didn’t show up at his June 2013 trial, the bail posted by his mother was forfeited, and when he was recaptured and stood trial last summer, he said the sex between the two was consensual. A jury found him not guilty.

He then moved to have the charge expunged from his record and, at the urging of a prosecutor, a judge said “no.”

These charges [against appellant] were brought in 2012 and after the normal preliminaries a trial date was set for June 3, 2013. [Appellant] failed to appear. He was later located in California.

There was evidence he had also spent time in Texas. His mother had guaranteed his $30,000 bail which was ordered forfeit. [Appellant] was finally returned to Minnesota in 2015 for his trial.

The County Attorney argues that the passage of so much time, directly attributable to [appellant’s] misconduct, adversely affected its presentation of the case when the trial finally occurred. This claim is difficult to evaluate but does have some logic.

Today, the Minnesota Court of Appeals said punishing someone for misconduct before a trial is no reason to keep a sexual assault allegation on someone’s record.

The country prosecutor had argued that the allegation should stay on D.R.F.’s record because if he should be arrested for a crime in the future, it might impact the bail that would be set.

The three-judge panel rejected that notion today, too.

“The opponent of an expungement petition is obliged to present evidence “that sealing [the petitioner’s] criminal record would present a unique or particularized harm to the public,” Court of Appeals Judge Francis Connolly wrote in today’s decision.

“We do not see that ‘a unique or particularized harm to the public” is presented by the hypothetical situation in which appellant commits some offense in the future and is charged with a crime, bail is set too low because of the state’s inability to bring up the bench warrant history of the appellant’s expunged crime, and appellant then absconds. This is simply too speculative to constitute clear-and-convincing evidence.”

Judge Connolly said while he can appreciate the difficult task balancing the rights of an individual with public safety, “in this case the proper balance was not struck,” he said.

He sent the case back to the Hennepin County District Court where D.R.F’s record will be expunged.