Criminal Record in Colorado: How You Can Seal and Expunge These Records
Having a criminal record can affect the rest of your life. Don't spend the rest of your life paying for a mistake you made when you were young or that you were wrongfully convicted of.
If you have ever been arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime in Colorado, there is no escaping a criminal record.
Even if you are never convicted, there will be a permanent record of the arrest somewhere. This applies to 70 million adults in the U.S. – about one in three.
A criminal record can have serious consequences for your future. As well as serving any initial sentence or probationary period, you may continue to pay the price when trying to secure employment, housing, immigration clearance or anything else requiring a routine background check.
But did you know that the records of most crimes can be sealed in Colorado? With a few exceptions, criminal records can be made invisible to the public, protecting you from problems with future background checks.
What is the Difference Between Expunging a Criminal Record vs. Sealing a Criminal Record?
When a criminal record is expunged this means the criminal record has been destroyed and no longer exists. When a criminal record is sealed it is no longer available to the general public, but it still exists. Although potential employers or landlords will not be able to see evidence of your criminal record it will still exist and will appear during any searches conducted by government agencies.
But Which Crimes Can be Expunged or Sealed and Which Stay on Your Record?
Adults do not qualify to have their criminal record expunged in Colorado unless they were wrongly convicted. Only juveniles may qualify for the expungement of criminal record.
In Colorado the only records that qualify for expungement are:
- Juvenile records
- Underage Drinking and driving
- Criminal records of those who have been wrongly convicted
Up until August of 2019, it was much more difficult to be eligible to have your criminal record sealed.The new law (Increased Eligibility for Criminal Record Sealing bill) allows for the sealing of petty offenses through class 3 felonies and level 2 drug felonies allowing previous ineligible people to be eligible for sealing their criminal record. You may qualify to have your criminal record sealed if:
- You were arrested but not charged with a crime for which the statute of limitations has passed
- You were arrested but not charged with a crime and are no longer under investigation
- The case against you was dismissed
- You completed a diversion program
- You were found not guilty of the charges being brought against you
Which Criminal Cases Cannot be Expunged or Sealed?
There are certain crimes that CANNOT be expunged or sealed under Colorado law. Convictions in the following cases will NOT be eligible for record-expungement or record-sealing:
- Sex crimes – no conviction for a sexual offense is eligible for expungement, whether rape, sexual assault, or a lesser crime.
- Crimes against children – no criminal conviction for a crime committed against a child is eligible for expungement.
- Violent crimes resulting in great bodily harm or death – whether battery resulting in great bodily harm, homicide, manslaughter or another type of violent crime resulting in great bodily harm, such convictions do not qualify for expungement.
- Driving Under the Influence – a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs cannot be expunged and will remain visible on your record, even if it was a first offense and the individual was given a deferred sentence.
- Class 1 or 2 misdemeanor traffic offenses
- Class A or B traffic infractions
The Colorado Legislature specifically excluded these crimes, as it was determined that they involve public safety issues. It is therefore considered in the public interest for all such records to remain visible to employers, landlords, etc.
So, you have no chance of your criminal record being sealed if you were convicted for any of the above. If, however, you were arrested and/or charges with any of the above crimes and you were NOT convicted, then your case is eligible to be sealed.
What are the Benefits of Sealing or Expunging a Criminal Record?
Background checks are a fact of life these days for jobs, housing, credit checks, student loans, occupational licenses, etc. Most employers and businesses use both criminal and commercial background checks which access publicly available information. That information includes every time you have been arrested (even if the arrest did not result in a case being filed), every case that has been filed (even if the case was dismissed), and every case in which you were convicted of a crime.
Once your arrest or case is sealed or expunged, the clerk of the court will remove the public record of your arrest or case from their office and the court’s website. The public will no longer be able to see that information and background checks should not reflect the information either. If asked, the court will answer “no such record exists.” Under federal law, agencies such a credit reporting agencies cannot include any sealed or expunged information on a background check.
What are the Waiting Periods for Sealing a Criminal Record?
The length of time you have to wait before applying for the sealing of your criminal record depends on the nature of your crime.
It varies according to the seriousness of the crime. For some crimes, you are eligible immediately while others are subject to a 5-year waiting period.
Here are the waiting periods:
- A petty offense or petty drug offense: one year from the date of final disposition
- Class 2 or 3 misdemeanor offense: two years from the date of final disposition
- Class 4, 5, or 6 felony, a level 3 or 4 drug felony, or a class 1 misdemeanor: three years from the date of final disposition
- All other offenses: 5 years from the date of final disposition
Eligible for Your Criminal Record to be Sealed or Expunged and in need of assistance?
If you have been arrested and the charges were dismissed, if you had a case filed against you and then dismissed, or if you were convicted of an eligible crime and you completed your sentence, probation or parole, and paid your fines, you can petition to have your arrest record/conviction expunged after the waiting period – providing you have no further arrests or convictions on your record.
Our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Colorado Defense Group can help advise you and file a petition for expungement with the court. Start with a free case evaluation or contact us today at 720-594-7367.