Psychological research on brain development and teen impulsivity shows that the adolescent brain’s reward centers have increased sensitivity, and that teens’ brains need to develop more in order for them to be able to rationally consider the long-term implications of bad decisions.
Conversely, the same line of research indicates that the deeper into the justice system they are thrust, the worse a teen’s family relationships, educational development, and overall mental, physical, and emotional health become.
In other words, they make a bad decision because their brains aren’t fully developed, society punishes them for it, and as a result of that punishment they have a harder time becoming healthy, well-adjusted, fully-developed adults.
One thing that makes this even more difficult is the fact that youthful offenders will be saddled with a criminal record if they have a run-in with the law. This is something that can hurt their chances of getting into college, qualifying for financial aid, finding a good job, and more.
Want some good news?
Here in the state of Colorado, your child may be eligible to have his or her record expunged. Expungement is when all court records are sealed and generally treated as though they never existed. Below we’re going to explain how expungement works for juvenile records in our state.
If you still have questions after reading this article, a knowledgeable Denver juvenile expungement attorney can guide you through the process.
Does My Colorado Teen Qualify for Expungement?
Whether a juvenile record is eligible for expungement traditionally depends on three primary factors:
- Age – Outside of being automatically expunged, in most cases you must be at least 18 years old in order to have your juvenile record expunged.
- Time – Often, juvenile records can’t be sealed until a certain period of time has passed since the end of a juvenile case. The waiting period can be anywhere from one to five years depending on the type of offense.
- Type of Crime – Those offenses that would be considered felonies if they had been committed as an adult typically are not eligible for expungement from a juvenile record.
However, last year Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill allowing juvenile criminal records containing certain low-level offenses to be expunged immediately in an effort to steer troubled youth back in the right direction.
The new law says expungement happens when a) a juvenile is found not guilty, b) the case against them is dismissed, or c) when the juvenile completes the subsequent sentence.
The only scenarios ineligible from being expunged are those in which we see repeat offenders and those convicted of violent crimes. Overall, officials believe “a bill like this allows us to give kids a real chance to figure things out,” ultimately diminishing the long-term consequences of juvenile charges.
How Can You Get a Juvenile Record Expunged in Colorado?
In cases eligible for automatic expungement, it should happen without any additional steps from you. An attorney specializing in juvenile offenses can confirm upon the end of your court case.
Otherwise, in order to begin the process of having your teen’s record expunged, you must file a request with the court that handled the original case, which usually requires a petition be filed there.
Court-provided forms and instructions can be completed at home or with your attorney for submission. Often, there is a fee associated with paperwork filings, and there are typically requirements about which people must be notified of your request to expunge. The clerk’s office will have any details your lawyer does not.
Life after Expungement for Colorado Juveniles
While having a juvenile record expunged is a fairly straight-forward process, be aware that the record is not physically destroyed. Instead, it will be sealed or specially marked and treated as though it never existed.
This means that when your teen applies for a job or tries to rent an apartment, they can legally say they have never been convicted of a crime. Even during most standard traffic stops the police will not be able to access any previously sealed records.
However, there are some circumstances in which the juvenile records will, in fact, become unsealed:
- When applying for positions with law enforcement or other government agencies, these records may be accessed to determine eligibility for positions requiring security clearance and other specific duties.
- If convicted of a crime as an adult, during sentencing the court will have access to sealed and expunged records, and their existence may increase the severity of your punishment.
Because of the short- and long-term impact of carrying a juvenile record, all charges should be taken seriously, and you should always try to fight back against them with the strongest defense possible. If, however, a juvenile conviction occurs, Colorado families should take advantage of the framework in place to receive a second chance by getting rid of that record.
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.