I often receive calls from frustrated individuals who have been rejected for a job or housing opportunity because of the appearance of a dismissed case on their criminal record. Since their case was dismissed, they were under the impression that it would no longer appear on their record. Some judges contribute to this misperception by telling defendants taking deferred judgement pleas that if they successfully complete probation, their case will no longer be on their record; this is inaccurate.
A successfully completed deferred judgement does in fact result in dismissal, and a case in which all charges are deferred and dismissed or dismissed outright is eligible for sealing. Once a case is sealed it will no longer appear on a background check, and it is legally possible for you to indicate you were never charged or arrested in connection with the crime.
However, sealing is not automatic. A petition to seal is a distinct legal case filed in the district court in the county in which the original criminal case was filed. How long a petition to seal takes depends upon the jurisdiction. Denver is very quick, granting petitions in approximately thirty days, whereas the petitions often are not decided for three months in other metro area counties. It is imperative to file a petition to seal as soon as you are eligible to do so, as failure to do so will only delay the amount of time you will have to deal with the record itself.
A petition to seal can be filed by a criminal defense attorney on your behalf, or you can file the petition yourself. However, it may be easier and more prudent to go through a lawyer experienced with handling such filings to ensure all steps are followed and the sealing is completed correctly and effectively.