Long after you have completed your sentence for a criminal conviction, your criminal record will come back to haunt you in nearly every aspect of your life, including employment, housing, loans, and higher education.
Moreover, criminal records are maintained in public databases, meaning that anyone with an internet connection and the desire to snoop can access embarrassing details of a past mistake that you would prefer to put behind you. In today’s Google-happy online dating culture, this can even cost you potential relationships.
Fortunately, it may be possible to have your Colorado criminal record sealed such that it is not publicly available and does not show up on criminal background checks run by employers and landlords. However, the process of sealing your criminal record is complex and detail oriented, so you may be best off working with an attorney who knows the system and will advocate for you.
Below, we’re going to cover the basics of record sealing in our state, including why working with a knowledgeable lawyer can help.
First, let’s talk a bit about what record sealing and expungement mean.
What Exactly Is Colorado Record Sealing and Expungement?
Criminal record sealing “seals” your criminal record such that it is not publicly searchable, does not appear in background checks, and is only accessible via court order, which is very difficult to obtain. Once your record is sealed, you can legally state on employment applications that you do not have a criminal record.
In record expungement, your criminal record is actually physically destroyed. However, expungement is only possible in our state for offenses committed as a juvenile.
Why Working with an Experienced Colorado Criminal Lawyer to Seal Your Record Is the Smart Way to Go
They Know the Law
That seems pretty obvious, right? If you’re going to work on a legal issue – especially one as important as this, you want an advocate on your side who understands the nuances of how record sealing and expungement work in our state.
For example, did you know that you don’t need to be convicted to have a criminal record? Many people believe that if they “win” their case, everything goes away. Not so. Whether or not you can seal or expunge these records depends on the specific situation.
What about eligibility in general? Do you know if you qualify? For record sealing? Or expungement? A knowledgeable Colorado defense attorney will be able to let you know almost immediately based on the facts of your case, which can save you a lot of hassle.
Sure, it’s possible to read up on this information on your own, but the law is notoriously complex. If you make just one little mistake, it might be the difference between getting your record sealed and having to live with it.
It’s Their Job
Successfully sealing or expunging a record isn’t just about knowing the law, but following through with all the proper procedures. Filling out the right forms. Turning them in on time. Getting them to the correct offices.
All of this may sound simple – and for the most part it is – but like all bureaucracy, the process can be deceptively confusing and time-consuming. Many people simply don’t have the bandwidth to take it on. Also, once again, this is a situation where one little mistake can ruin your chances.
They Have an Insider’s View
When looking for a criminal lawyer to help you seal your record, make sure that you choose someone with a track record of success in this area. Someone who does this regularly for clients.
Why? Because this tells you that they know what they are doing and that they have a relationship of sorts with the people and offices who are going to be involved in deciding on whether or not your record will be sealed or expunged.
In other words, an attorney can help with those “gray” areas you can’t learn by reading rules and regulations. Because while there are numerous types of criminal acts and situations that are excluded from even applying for record sealing or expungement, the mere fact that you are eligible does not guarantee that your request will be granted. You need to convince the people making the decision that you deserve the privilege of a sealed or expunged record.
This is the “art” of the process as opposed to the “science,” and a lawyer who has proven that he or she can do this gives you a huge leg up.
So, Do I Really Need a Lawyer to Seal My Colorado Criminal Record?
Short answer: no. It is something that you can technically do on your own, and there are people who have.
That being said, your chances of success increase astronomically with a legal professional on your side. A record sealing petition is an application. It is turned in and then must be considered by a judge who has the power to accept or reject it based on the content of the application. Additionally, the prosecuting attorney for your case may object to your petition.
In short, there are all kinds of hurdles, and if you are not adept at overcoming them, it can spell doom for your chances at success. Your application must be submitted properly. It must be written in appropriate language.
Working with a reputable Colorado criminal defense attorney will maximize your chance for a successful application.
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.