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Deleting a public record refers to obliterating every trace of a record or entry in every public database. It is the process of legally destroying or striking out records or information in files, computers, and other depositories relating to a public record. By deleting a public record, the event listed therein can no longer be referred to. It would be as though the event never happened.
A public record can negatively impact the lives of people in North Dakota. For instance, people with criminal records may have difficulty finding jobs and housing and obtaining certain types of loans. People who have criminal records may also have trouble securing professional licenses. The effects of a criminal record are not limited to potential employment concerns but can extend to other aspects of life, including the loss of civil rights such as voting, the ability to serve on a jury or hold an office, and the ability to possess a firearm.
The consequences of a previous misdemeanor or potential barriers to a productive life that may arise in connection to being the subject of a condemnatory public record stimulate a desire to have such public records deleted. However, North Dakota does not make any provisions for deleting public records. The state makes provisions to help persons with checkered pasts seal public records. Although sealed records are not obliterated or deleted from all government databases, they are restricted and can only be accessed in limited circumstances by specific persons.
What is a Public Record in North Dakota?
Pursuant to the North Dakota Open Records Statute, a record means recorded information of any kind, irrespective of physical form or characteristics by which the information is stored, recorded, or reproduced, which is in the possession or custody of a public entity or its agent and has been received or prepared for use in connection with a public business or contains information relating to public business. Public entities include all governmental bodies, boards, bureaus, commissions, or agencies of the state.
In North Dakota, all records of public entities are open records except where there is a specific statutory exception for a particular type of record. The Open Records Statute empowers anyone, citizen or not, to request public records without presenting a statement of purpose. Certain records are exempted from public disclosure, such as juvenile records, trade secrets, public employee medical and assistance records, workers compensation, unemployment, tax information, and law enforcement investigation records. Commonly inspected or copied open records include:
- Birth records
- Death records
- Licensing records
- Court records
- Statistical data
- Voting records
The North Dakota government views open records as a cornerstone of accountability in governance. By making records open, residents of North Dakota can participate more fully in governance by being aware of the decisions and actions of the government. Although making government records available to the general public promotes transparency, residents sometimes desire to remove public access from their records for varying reasons. North Dakota allows residents to seal public records from public view if certain conditions are met. Typically, this can be achieved by obtaining a court order. We also offer record-sealing service to North Dakota citizens who wish to start new lives without the handicap of previous misdemeanors.
Does North Dakota allow Expungement?
Yes, however, the expungement of criminal records is only available in limited circumstances. Expungement of criminal records is limited to:
- Records as a direct result of being a victim of human trafficking - Under NDDC Section 12.1-41-14, certain offenses committed as a direct result of being a victim of human trafficking, the defendant may make a motion to the court to vacate and expunge the record of conviction. Such offenses include convictions of:
- Misdemeanor forgery
- Misdemeanor theft
- Insufficient funds or credit offenses
- Manufacture or possession of a controlled or counterfeit substances offenses
- Drug paraphernalia offenses
- Records for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana - Per Section 19-03-1-23 of the NDDC, if the conviction is a first-time offense and the defendant does not have any other conviction within two years, the defendant may make a motion to the court to expunge the records
- Records of juvenile court unruly or delinquency proceedings - Per NDDC Section 27-20-54, delinquency records retained for 10 years after the final order, or age 18, whichever occurs later. Unruly records are retained for one year after age 18 or the expiration of the final order, whichever is later.
- Records of DNA profiles - Per NDDC Section 31-13-07, a defendant may petition the court to order the state crime laboratory to expunge the DNA profile from a database if the arrest that led to the addition of the defendant's DNA profile in the database:
- Did not result in a felony charge within one year
- Was resolved by dismissal, acquittal, or misdemeanor conviction
- Did not result in a felony conviction
- The conviction on which the authority for including the DNA profile was based has been reversed or the case dismissed
- Records of unconstitutional arrests - if an arrest was unconstitutional and the charges were dismissed or the conviction overturned, the defendant may petition the court to expunge the arrest records
How do I Expunge My Criminal Record in North Dakota?
Persons who have determined that they meet the requirements to expunge records of unconstitutional arrests or DNA profiles expunged must petition the District court for expungement. The expungement petition may be filed as a civil action. An individual who has determined to have met the requirements to ask the court to expunge a record of a first-time conviction of possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, or to vacate and expunge conviction records of offenses committed as a result of being a victim of human trafficking must make a written motion to the court for expungement.
Determining eligibility for expungement and the petitioning process in North Dakota can be complex. Hence, persons seeking expungement are advised to consider hiring the service of an experienced expungement attorney.
Will My Expungement Record Show up on a Background Check in North Dakota?
Expunged records in New Mexico are removed from public view and will no longer show up on background checks conducted through government agencies or on non-FCRA compliant background checks. However, they may still be accessed by law enforcement agencies or the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
How to Seal a Record in North Dakota
North Dakota recently provided a path to relief for persons with criminal histories through HB 1256 (Criminal Seal Bill) and HB1334 (DUI Seal Bill). Prior to August 1, 2019, when these bills went into effect, citizens of North Dakota could only have criminal records sealed under extremely limited conditions. One of such ways was to receive a deferred imposition of sentence, that is, the sentence for an offense gets postponed and remains off-record until the sentence starts. For that to happen, defendants had to plead guilty to the charges brought against them.
Under the criminal seal bills, North Dakota set different requirements for sealing misdemeanor and felony offenses. In either case, an individual seeking to seal a criminal record must have received a guilty verdict or pleaded guilty. Eligible persons are required not to have been charged with a new crime for at least three years (for misdemeanor convictions) or five years (for felony convictions) from the date of their release from incarceration, parole, or probation. Persons convicted of sex crimes against children requiring them to register as offenders in a registry are not eligible for expungement. Individuals who were convicted for felony offenses involving violence or intimidation during the time in which they are eligible to possess firearms under state law are also not eligible.
Pursuant to the DUI seal bill, North Dakota permits the court to grant the sealing of a record of conviction if the person convicted of DUI has not pled guilty or been found guilty of another DUI or any other criminal offense within seven years of the first DUI conviction. This provision does not apply to commercial drivers, and prosecutors can still use a sealed DUI conviction to enhance the offense level of a fourth offense DUI, that is, four DUI offenses within 15 years.
The sealing process for a DUI offense works just like a deferred imposition of sentence. The judge vacates the finding of guilt by guilty plea or guilty verdict, dismisses the charges, and then the clerk's office seals the records from public view.
To seal a record for any qualifying offense in North Dakota:
- Draft and file a petition in the existing criminal case for the offense committed. The draft must include:
- The full name and any other legal names
- All of the addresses the petitioner has resided at from the date of the offense until the date of the petition
- Reasons why the petitions should be granted
- Criminal history (including pending matters) in North Dakota, any other state, federal court, foreign countries, and any prior requests for pardon, expungement, or sealing of a criminal record
- File a proposed order granting the sealing of the criminal record.
- Serve the petition on the prosecuting attorney as required by the North Dakota Rules of Criminal Procedure.
At the hearing scheduled no less than 45 days after the petition is filed, the court determines whether to grant or deny the petition. The court makes a decision by considering through clear and convincing evidence, that:
- The petitioner has shown good cause to grant the petition
- The benefit to the petitioner outweighs the presumption of openness of the record
- The petitioner has completed all terms of imprisonment and probation, paid all restitution, and demonstrated reformation warranting relief
- The petition meets the form and procedural requirements of the law
The judge must also consider:
- The nature and severity of the offense
- The risk to society posed by the petitioner
- The length of time since the crime occurred
- The petitioner's rehabilitation efforts
- Any aggravating or mitigating factor relating to the crime
- The person's criminal history, employment history, and community involvement
- The recommendations of law enforcement, prosecutors, corrections, and those familiar with the petitioner and the offense
- The thoughts of the victims of the offense committed
If the relief is granted, the record is sealed from public disclosure. If a Municipal Court denies the petition, an appeal can be made to the District Court. The petitioner is required to wait a minimum of three years from the date of the denial to file another request for sealing records. If the case is denied in the District Court, the petitioner cannot appeal the decision any further.
Who Can See My Sealed Record in North Dakota?
Sealed records in North Dakota are not available to employers, landlords, and the general public. However, they can still be accessed by the clerk of court, judges, juvenile court, probation officers, prosecutors, and those with specialized criminal justice processes. The court may also grant an order to access a sealed record if needed.
How to Delete Bankruptcy Records in North Dakota
Bankruptcy is a legal term associated with persons or businesses who cannot pay back outstanding debts. Filing for bankruptcy typically indicates that you are released from the debts owed and given the chance to make a fresh start while ensuring that your assets are shared among the creditors owed. Bankruptcy records are included in credit reports which are typically part of background checks conducted by employers in North Dakota. Employers are also within their rights to use credit reports in deciding whether to hire an individual. It may be used in retention and promotion decisions as well.
Due to the potential handicaps that may be associated with having bankruptcy records in the public space, many persons prefer to have such records deleted. While North Dakota makes no provisions for deleting bankruptcy records, the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act by which the state abides also mandates truthful and accurate reporting of credit reports. The Act also permits employers to gain access to credit reports subject to the consent of the persons named on the records. Bankruptcy records are open records and can be accessed even through non-FCRA compliant records check services.
Except where the record has been incorrectly reported, a bankruptcy record will stay on file for 7-10 years depending on the Chapter filed. You can dispute an inaccurate or invalid credit report with the credit reporting agency. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is deleted seven years from the filing date because it requires at least a partial repayment of the debts you owe. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is deleted ten years from the filing date because none of the debt is repaid.
What are Consumer Protection Laws in North Dakota?
North Dakota enforces several laws to protect consumers against fraud, false advertising, and other unfair and deceptive business practices. The Consumer Protection and Antitrust Division of the North Dakota Attorney General's Office enforces the state Unfair Trade Practices Law which prohibits fraudulent practices in connection with the sale or advertisement of merchandise. Any advertisement, offer to sell, or sale of merchandise at less than the cost as defined in the UTPL, which is intended to induce the purchaser of other merchandise or unfairly divert trade from a competitor constitutes a violation of the Law. This violation is considered a Class A misdemeanor.
Any individual damaged, or who is threatened with loss or injury, due to a violation of the provision of the North Dakota UTPL is entitled to sue for and have injunctive relief in the District Court. The Attorney General and state's attorneys to institute suits on behalf of the state against a violator.
North Dakota is also proposing a California CPA-like law relating to the protection against the disclosure of personal information and to provide a penalty for disclosures. HB1485 the disclosure of personal information to a third party without the express written consent of the consumer. The Bill provides for heavy fines in the event a covered entity violates a cease-and-desist order issued by the North Dakota Attorney General. It proposes a fine of up to $100,000 per violation or $250,000 per intentional violation of the cease-and-desist order. The Bill also makes a provision that includes a private right of action for consumers whose personal information is purchased, received, sold, or shared in violation of the bill. However, HB1485 has been replaced with a bill authorizing a legislative management study of consumer personal data disclosures.
Other consumer protection laws in North Dakota include:
- North Dakota Antitrust Laws
- North Dakota Identity Theft Law
- North Dakota Interest Rate Laws
- North Dakota Homestead Laws
- North Dakota Lemon Laws
How to Delete Lien Records in North Dakota
A lien is a legal claim against a property. It provides security, allowing a person or organization to take property or other legal action to satisfy debts and obligations. Liens can be filed anytime anyone has a legal right to your property. They are typically part of an agreement to purchase or real or personal property. Liens can also exist as a result of legal action. There are several types of liens, including tax liens, mechanic's liens, attorney's liens, and judgment liens.
Liens are public records and cannot be removed without satisfying the associated debt except where it is inaccurate or incorrect. You can contact a lienholder to remove the lien on your property if it is not legitimate. If the lienholder disagrees, you may dispute it in court. The easiest way to have a lien record removed is to pay the debt required to get the lien released or negotiate with the lienholder to accept less than you owe. Upon satisfaction of the associated debt, the lien will be lifted, and the record removed. North Dakota allows the public to search lien records in the state through the Central Indexing system. The Central Indexing System is a computer system containing Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), Central Notice (CNS), agricultural statutory liens and notices, miscellaneous statutory liens, and state and federal tax liens filed online with the Secretary of State's office.
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