A criminal record is something that follows you forever. It doesn’t matter whether your charge was a misdemeanor or felony, and it doesn’t matter how long ago you were charged with a crime—that record is public and can be viewed by anyone running a criminal background check.
Having a criminal record can be particularly harmful for juvenile offenders, who may face obstacles applying for colleges or jobs due to the charges against them. It’s a harsh penalty to pay for a mistake made at a young age, and many youthful offenders don’t understand the damage that they may be causing to their futures by participating in the state’s juvenile justice system.
The problem is compounded by Colorado’s well-known difficulty in providing legal representation to juveniles who have been charged with a crime. How bad is it? Fifty percent of all indigent juvenile offenders have their case resolved before they are assigned a lawyer, often leading them to make inadvisable legal decisions.
Luckily, juveniles don’t necessarily have to live with those ill-advised choices for the rest of their lives. Undercertainconditions, Colorado juveniles can essentially have their criminal record wiped clean.
Expungement Laws in Colorado
This process of “wiping the slate clean” is called expungement. When a criminal record is expunged, it is struck from the public records and destroyed—as far as the law goes, it’s as if the crime never happened. A police officer, a potential employer, or college board would not be able to see the record, and the individual whose record has been expunged would not be required to report a criminal record if asked.
Expungement laws vary from state to state, and in Colorado only juvenile offenders are eligible to have their criminal record expunged. However, adult offenders may be able to have their record sealed in some cases, meaning that it will be removed from public records but can still be accessed in extreme conditions.
Cases That Can Be Expunged
Juvenile prosecutions are handled differently than those of adults, and under the Colorado Children’s Code, there are several different situations in which juvenile offenders can file a petition with the District Court to have their record expunged. Those circumstances include:
Being found not guilty at trial
Clearly our judicial system does not want to punish people for crimes that they did not commit or for charges that were lifted. If you are a juvenile who is found not guilty at trial, you will not have a criminal record, but there will still be a court record. That can be damaging. Fortunately, you can petition to have that court record expunged immediately after the trial, and no one needs to know about it.
Reparations have been made after a ticket or arrest
Receiving a ticket or being arrested and then released shortly afterwards might not seem that serious, but your arrest record may still show up during a criminal background check. You can petition for expungement one year after receiving a ticket or being arrested as long as no other legal action was taken. You may also be eligible if you completed a juvenile diversion program after your arrest or ticket.
The court has terminated jurisdiction
Someone with a juvenile record can petition to have their record expunged four years after the charge if the court that charged them has terminated jurisdiction, or in some cases if they were unconditionally released from parole supervision. If you have been adjudicated a repeat or mandatory juvenile offender and the court has terminated jurisdiction or you have been unconditionally released from parole supervision after ten years, you may also be able to apply for expungement.
There are, however, certain situations where a juvenile offender would not be eligible to petition to have their records expunged. Individuals are not eligible if they were adjudicated for an offense involving unlawful sexual behavior, violent behavior, an offense that would be a crime of violence if committed by an adult, or if they were charged as an adult.
If you think that you or a loved one may be eligible to have a juvenile record expunged, you should talk to a Colorado criminal lawyer. The process of getting a record expunged can be long and complicated, and having an experienced attorney on your side can help you get the best, most expedient outcome possible.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.