Whether you were charged with a crime last week, last month, or 10 years ago, a criminal arrest, charge, or conviction on your record can have a serious impact on your life. After uncovering your tarnished record, employers might not hire you for a job. Banks could deny you for a loan. Landlords may refuse to rent property to you.
With the recent advancements in information technology, it’s now easier than ever for employers, landlords and pretty much everyone else to get access to your criminal records online with the click of a mouse. When they do, they’ll be able to see any convictions, charges, or arrests—even if they occurred years ago or your case was dismissed.
The good news is that Colorado law permits you to seal your record under specific circumstances. When sealed, the general public—including employers and landlords—won’t be able to see your criminal record. You can seal all records related to the case, including police contact records, arrest records, and any court case associated with the incident.
Though sealed records are not destroyed, they can only be accessed by courts, law enforcement officials, and criminal justice agencies. Information pertaining to a sealed record will not be divulged to the public—in fact, it is against the law to do so. When a record is sealed, you can treat the criminal matter as if it never happened and deny its occurrence if questioned by most others.
What does this mean? That you’ll have a much better chance of getting hired for a job, renting an apartment, or getting approved for a loan. What’s more, it’ll be easier to build a relationship with others once your record is cleaned of unappealing criminal records because you won’t have to worry about them finding out.
Am I Eligible for Record Sealing in Colorado?
The following types of cases are eligible for sealing:
Dismissals or completed deferred judgment. If you were charged with a crime, you may be eligible to petition for sealing if charges were never filed, if charges were filed but dismissed, or if you were found not guilty in a trial. If you were arrested but never charged, you may also petition to have arrests removed from your record.
Petty offense convictions. You can petition for sealing if you were convicted of petty offenses, including petty drug and municipal offenses.
The following types of cases are ineligible for sealing:
Criminal offenses. If you are convicted of something other than a drug offense, municipal offense, or other petty offense, you cannot have it sealed.
Certain traffic offenses. Many traffic offenses and infractions may not be sealed, including DUIs.
Sex offenses. Even after a successfully completed deferred judgment, offenses involving unlawful sexual behavior cannot be sealed.
Colorado’s Requirements for Petitioning
If your case qualifies for sealing, the next step is to determine the requirements to petition. For dismissals or completed deferred judgments, there is a $224 filing fee. There are no requirements for keeping your record clean of subsequent charges, and you can file immediately upon your case’s dismissal.
For petty offenses, however, you must wait three years after sentence completion before filing. During this time, you must keep your record clean of additional charges and convictions. The filing fee to seal petty offense convictions is $424.
The Process of Sealing Your Record
The process of having your record sealed has several steps, outlined as follows:
• Drafting the petition and proposed orders
• Filing the petition and proposed orders with the court
• Waiting for the court to issue the order and notice of hearing
• Notifying all pertinent parties of the hearing, including the relevant law enforcement agency, the District Attorney’s office, and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
• Mailing the order to seal to all of these agencies
• If no parties object, your petition will typically be granted without a hearing. However, if one of the agencies does object, the case must be reviewed in court.
The process of petitioning to have your record sealed is a lengthy, complex, and oftentimes overwhelming one. After all, the decision will have a huge impact on your professional, financial, and personal future. While there is a fair chance you will be able to successfully seal eligible cases, your petition may be denied if it is not handled appropriately—it’s imperative that you follow procedures carefully and to fill out paperwork properly.
To drastically improve your odds for success, you should speak with an an attorney experienced in criminal record sealing.. A seasoned criminal defense attorney can help you determine whether your case is eligible, and guide you step-by-step through this complicated and often daunting process. Additionally, if a hearing is needed, an attorney can appear on your behalf.
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.