Is Sealing Criminal Records In Colorado An Option?

In many cases, a criminal record can cause serious issues regarding starting or maintaining a career, acquiring more education, or even starting a family. But some options can help reduce the impact of these records. One of those is to have your Colorado criminal records sealed — meaning they will not be accessible through standard background checks. If you're not sure how to do this or want to determine whether your records are in good standing, the best way is to work with a reputable criminal defense attorney who has experience in that specific area.

Your records may be holding you back, but it's possible that they don't have to continue to do so. When you have a trusted legal professional on your side, it's easier for you to move forward and get the answers and information you need to seal your Colorado records. The specific offense, your age at the time, and other factors may all come in handy in enhancing your legibility to seal your records. An attorney can take a look at the case and give you information on the options you have. Here's what to know about sealing criminal records in Colorado.

You Can Petition to Have Your Records Sealed -- In Some Cases

There aren't a lot of options for sealing records that involve serious offenses committed as an adult. However, criminal records for minor offenses may be sealed in some cases. Petty offenses, municipal violations, controlled substance crimes, and a few other types of crimes all have the option for you to petition to have them sealed. You will have to complete any requirements or conditions you were given as a result of your conviction first. But then you can ask the court to seal your records.

If they agree to record sealing, that means it will look as though the crime never occurred. Other people can't find it, and it won't appear in searches or background checks. Because of that, you can move through education and career processes without disclosing the issue or worries that it will be discovered. Sealing criminal records may be an important part of reclaiming your life and getting on with the kinds of things you want to do in the future. You can put your past behind you.

Another way you may be able to have your records sealed is if you were not convicted. In other words, if you've been arrested and charged with a crime but that never led to a conviction, you can also petition to have your records sealed. When you have something like this sealed, you don't need to worry about it showing up later in an employment background check or when someone new is learning about you by searching online for records and information.

The goal of sealing criminal records is to have a criminal conviction hidden or to remove things like arrests that didn't lead to any conviction. That reduces or eliminates a person's criminal history, making it easier for them to obtain employment and do a lot of other things in life that might require a criminal background check. But there are also plenty of offenses where Colorado won't allow you to have your records sealed.

What Specific Records Can be Sealed?

If you were arrested, but you weren't charged with anything, and the statute of limitations for charging you with that crime has run out, you can ask that your records be sealed. The same is true if you were arrested and weren't charged, and you're also no longer being investigated for it. Additionally, you may also ask for your records to be sealed if the case that was made against you has already been dismissed or if you fully completed a diversion program related to the charges. 

Another reason to ask for your records to be sealed is if you were found not guilty. There's no reason to have that on your record because it was determined that you didn't commit the crime. But seeing the arrest and charges can be problematic for a potential employer, educator, or mate who doesn't investigate the issue fully. It's easier to simply have the records sealed so the issue doesn't come up, and you can put it behind you.

As with anything, though, there are exceptions to the general rule of what records can be sealed. If you made a plea agreement, and that's why you weren't charged, for example, those records can't be sealed. You also have to make sure to meet all the conditions of your sentence, or you won't be able to get your records sealed, either. If you've had your case dismissed due to making a plea agreement in another case, you can ask for your records to be sealed, but only after you've waited 10 years from the date of disposition. In that 10-year period, you must be free of charges for any other crimes, or you won't be eligible for sealing. 

There's one more reason you can have your records sealed, and it actually happens more often than you would expect. That's for cases of mistaken identity. If you were arrested because the police thought you were someone else, but you weren't charged with anything, you could have your records sealed. The law enforcement agency that arrested you has up to 90 days to file with the court, stating that you were arrested due to mistaken identity and there weren't any charges filed.

Then the court has to seal (expunge) the record within 90 days of the filing. It would be grossly unfair to force someone to have a criminal record attached to their name when it was a case of mistaken identity, and they hadn't done anything wrong. Sealing those kinds of records is the best way to help ensure that anyone who was arrested as the result of a mistake by law enforcement doesn't have to explain that to others or carry that issue with them for the rest of their lives. Being arrested by mistake is stressful enough.

What Offense Records Can't be Sealed?

There are several offenses that can't be sealed, and the information for them will always be available to the public without the opportunity for expungement. Traffic offenses that are Class I or Class II misdemeanors aren't eligible to be sealed. The same is true with traffic infractions that are Class A or Class B, along with convictions for DUI. Any unlawful sexual behavior, some drug conviction records, and offenses involving commercial motor vehicles or someone with a commercial driver's license can't be sealed.

Expungement is possible for certain types of drug conviction records if it has been at least 10 years since the offense, and there haven't been any offenses since that time. But that's not true of all drug crimes, so it's very important to understand which crimes may qualify and which aren't eligible. An attorney is the best person to help you do that because they have the knowledge and experience needed to make sure you can seal any records that are eligible to help protect your future from additional harm.

Domestic violence is another crime that you generally can't petition to seal. People need to be able to request these kinds of records to protect themselves and see what the final disposition was in the case. Colorado's law has some options for deferred judgment, but that generally doesn't apply to domestic cases. The process of finding this information isn't complicated for those who want to know if someone committed this type of crime.

That can affect whether they allow a person into their home and life, and the level of trust they have in them, as well as how much contact they want to have with a person who may have been convicted of a crime. But it's important to note that these laws are for adult crimes, and juvenile record sealing issues are often treated differently. That's why it's vital to work with a legal professional to get the information you need about expunging your records under Colorado law.

Work With an Attorney to Explore Your Options

If you've been arrested in Colorado, or you have a criminal record there, you may be able to have your records sealed. It depends on the crime and other factors, but the best way to find out what options you have in your specific situation is to work with a legal professional. That way, you can get information that directly relates to your case and explore all the factors surrounding it to see whether having your records sealed is feasible. It may not be an option for you, but it's certainly worth finding out.

Reaching out to an attorney isn't a tricky affair, but be sure to find one who's going to offer you the experience and education you're looking for, along with the information you need. You don't want to be told that you can do something about your criminal record, only to find out the facts of your case make it impossible. Instead, you want an attorney who will look into everything right from the beginning and who won't make false promises.

An attorney you can trust with your case will make sure you understand what options you have or why your records can't be sealed if that's the case for you. That way, you'll be able to make an informed decision. If your records have the opportunity to be sealed, you can proceed with letting your attorney petition the court, so you can put the past behind you and move forward with peace of mind. If record sealing isn't possible, at least you'll know that it's not an option for your specific situation.


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