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Minnesota

A Midwestern state, Minnesota was created from the eastern section of the Minnesota Territory and is bordered by Lake Superior and Canada to the north.  Minnesota is the 12th largest state in the U.S., and nearly 60 percent of its 5.4 million residents live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, also known as the Twin Cities.  With a diverse landscape and an even more diverse population, Minnesota has a lot to offer its residents and has long made provisions for the sharing of its records with the public.

Minnesota Public Records Laws

The Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA) was originally passed in 1974 and amendments were made in 1993.  The Act is found in Chapter 13 of the Minnesota Statutes, and the law imposes some of the highest sanctions of any other state against those who knowingly violate its provisions, with damages allowed up to $15,000 per incident.

Under the Act, “any person” may request public records in Minnesota and this includes individuals, corporations, and their legal representatives.  The reason for the application does not need to be stated, except in matters of potential invasion of privacy, and the use of the records once obtained is unrestricted.

Records that are covered by the Act include those from all state agencies, including the executive branch.  The legislative and judicial branches are not included although some legislative records are available, and the Rules of Public Access apply to the disclosure of court records.  Records that cannot be obtained, or are exempt, include:

  • Educational records
  • Medical records
  • Investigatory records
  • Security-related data
  • Sealed ballots
  • Library records
  • Welfare data
  • Foster care information
  • Domestic abuse data

Minnesota Criminal Records, Arrest Records and Background Checks

Background checks in Minnesota are administered by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).  The department has an open-access website where any member of the public can do a public records search on anyone else for free, and the results will return a 15-year criminal history for the state of Minnesota.  However, if the report is to be used for employment, housing, or credit purposes, the applicant must be informed in writing of this.  A more complete check, including a search of FBI records, can be done when a signed consent is received.


Minnesota Jail and Inmate Records

To find information on the correctional facilities in the state of Minnesota, services for victims, and to search for an offender, you can visit the state Department of Corrections website.  To locate an offender in the system, you’ll want to search on the Offender Locator page with either a MnDOC Offender ID or a Name and Date of Birth.  You’ll be given the offender’s current location, sentence date, offense information, and estimated earliest release date.

Minnesota Court Records

To locate any information on the courts or court cases in the state of Minnesota, you can search the administrator of the courts website.  The Minnesota Public Access (MPA) website allows the public to search for such things as trial, civil, family, and criminal case records, wills deposited with the court, and appellate court cases.  Full case files may need to be requested from the courthouse where the case was heard.

Minnesota Vital Records

Vital records in Minnesota in the form of birth and death certificates are administered by the Minnesota Department of Health, Office of Vital Records.  Birth certificates are available from 1900 to present and death certificates from 1908 to present.   You must show “tangible interest” to receive any of these documents in Minnesota.  This means proving that you are either listed on the certificate or are a relative, legal guardian, legal representative, or business with an interest.  To request either of these in Minnesota, you can do the following:

  • In Person: You can only apply for a birth or death certificate in person at a local county office if they offer this service.   The main Office of Vital Records does not provide walk-in service.
  • By Mail:   You can mail a complete application with payment and the required documentation to: Minnesota Department of Health, Central Cashiering – Vital Records, P.O. Box 64499, St. Paul, MN 55164
  • Email:  Fax your completed application with the required documentation to 951-201-5740.

Marriage certificates and divorce decrees are only available from the county in which the event took place.  Procedures to request these and dates available will vary depending on the location.

If you’re looking to perform employment background checks in Minnesota, or to screen potential hires, there are certain restrictions you may need to file. Read on for more info.

There are certain states, such as California, New York and Wisconsin, which are considered to be pro-jobseeker states when it comes to background check laws. Minnesota is also a state that falls into this job-seeker friendly category. These states don’t have laws that completely prohibit the use of background checks and the information obtained to determine whether someone is hireable or not; however, it does place certain limitations on the background check process and the extent that the information can be used to determine whether a person is hireable.

The Important Role of Background Checks

Immediate access to the pertinent background information of applicants has totally revolutionized the human resources industry. The capacity to almost immediately gain access to a broad range of personal and even private data, provides these companies with a wealth of data through which they can develop a rather lucid portrait of potential employees. However, the challenge is determining how much access is too much, as well as determining just what a company can use or not use in their decision making process.

This is why states go to great lengths to protect job seekers from companies that will abuse the background check process without handcuffing the businesses completely. There are some states with very loose laws that provide a great deal of latitude for companies to use background checks in their hiring process, while other states place more emphasis on protecting the rights and privacy of the job seeker. Minnesota falls under the latter category.

The Diverse Nature of a Background Check

Obviously, one of the most common areas of concern when it comes to background checks is criminal history. For the purpose of protecting employees, clients and company property and assets, companies place a significant amount of gravity on criminal history. Although having a criminal history does not automatically bar a person from employment, it can create challenges, depending on the type of crime that was committed, as well as how long ago the crime was committed.

Under Minnesota law, any company that is functioning as a business screening service may only disseminate criminal history that is reflective of a person’s accurate and complete record. Ultimately, this means that any data that is provided to a company as a part of a criminal background check must have been updated no later than 30 days prior to the information being passed on to the company requesting the background check. The law also requires that this data be verified with the primary data source within the last 90 days. Companies providing business screening services or employment criminal background checks must allow any person that this is the subject of a background check to dispute the criminal history that is revealed on any report that is being distributed to a business requesting information on the subject.

Dealing with Juvenile Records

When it comes to conducting a background check on juveniles, the law only allows access to a juvenile’s prior criminal history as a prerequisite for specific types of employment in specific occupations or for specified noncriminal justice system purposes. Occupations in which public safety is an issue or jobs that involve other minors are a couple of the categories that apply here.

Ban the Box Protections

Ban the box protection laws were first enacted in Minnesota is 1974, and they were most recently amended in 2013. These laws provide specific limitation on the ability of companies to access and use a person’s criminal history as a basis for denying employment. These restrictions apply to public and private employers and licensing agencies. One law prohibits the consideration of a person’s criminal history until that person has been selected for an interview. This law is designed to ensure that criminal history cannot be used solely as a disqualifying criteria for potential employees. For a person to be selected for an interview suggests that they have, at least, met the minimum requirements for the job.

When it comes to licensing decisions and public employment, no government agency can consider any criminal record that is not followed by a conviction, expunged convictions or misdemeanor convictions in which no jail sentence can be imposed.

Additionally, when it comes to public employment, a person cannot be denied employment based on criminal history unless the offense in question is directly associated with the position that the person is applying for. To ensure that this particular statute is followed, there are specific provisions and criteria that must be met by the employer to prove direct association.

When it comes to licensing, any person that is covered by these statutes that is rejected must be provided a notice of the reasons why they were rejected. The licensing agency must also include information on the statutory complaint and grievance process and the earliest day that the applicant can reapply. Where applicable, the agency must also make the applicant aware of the fact that any evidence of rehabilitation will be considered for future applications.

Occupations and Activities Serving Children

When it comes to occupations that focus on serving children, the state of Minnesota requires a mandatory background check. For instance, any person offered employment in a position by a school that is serving children from Kindergarten through 12th grade must clear a criminal background check, including athletic and extracurricular activity coaches and teachers.

In this case, there is no limit on the look-back period, meaning that the background check can go back as far as necessary. This normally includes instate and out-of-state sources.

There are some exceptions to the mandatory statute. For instance, the hiring authority does not have to request a background check for someone who has received their license within the last 12 months. The hiring authority also has the option to use a background check that has been conducted by another school or hiring authority if the background check was conducted in the last 12 months.

This statute also allows for the termination of those who were hired pending the results of their background check. The statute also requires that the applicant provide a money order or check payable to BCA or the hiring authority for the purpose of covering the cost of the background check.

Although this statute mandates a background check, it does not prohibit the hiring authority from hiring someone with a criminal history, and the hiring authority will not be held liable for terminating or failing to hire an individual based on the results of the background check.

For those who are applying to work on a volunteer basis at institutions that serve children from kindergarten to 12th grade, background checks are optional and left to the discretion of the hiring authority.

Outside of the statutes that impact individuals who are applying for positions involving children, the background check laws in Minnesota overwhelmingly favor the job-seeker. The idea is to protect the privacy of individuals as well as protect against the proclivity of companies to refuse employment to individuals with criminal histories.

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