A criminal record can make different areas of your life challenging, even after you’ve paid your debt to society. The good news: in Colorado, you may be eligible to have your record sealed.
If you’re not familiar with the sealing of criminal records and what it can do for you, read on to learn more about the process, who qualifies, and how it can start you toward a better future.
Colorado Record Sealing: What Is It?
In Colorado, any person arrested or convicted of a crime carries a criminal record. The general public has access to these records when performing a background check.
When your criminal record is sealed, your criminal history is no longer subject to background checks visible to the general public. Essentially, that record becomes invisible.
What About Expungement?
Criminal record sealing and expungement are similar, but they are not the same. Sealing means that your criminal record cannot be looked up in public background searches (i.e. by employers), but law enforcement and the courts will still be able to see your record. The conviction also still exists.
Expungement, on the other hand, essentially wipes your record, as if the crime never happened at all. In Colorado, only juvenile adjudications can be expunged completely.
Who Is Eligible for Record Sealing in Colorado?
There are several factors that come into play when determining if you are eligible for record sealing in Colorado, such as:
- The type of crime
- Whether or not you were convicted
- The outcome of the case – for example, whether it was closed or dismissed
Criminal cases in Colorado are considered “closed” if the defendant has completed all the terms of their sentence and a final disposition has occurred. While you can certainly dig up these records and go through the process by yourself, it is helpful for an experienced attorney to guide you.
If you have a criminal conviction on your record, then sealing may not be an option for you. Crimes that cannot be sealed include:
- Class 1, 2, and 3 felonies
- Sex crimes
- Class 1 and 2 misdemeanor traffic offenses
- Class A and B traffic infractions
- Level 1 drug felonies
- Domestic violence convictions
If you have a conviction for any type of traffic offense, and you’re wondering if your conviction falls into any of those traffic categories listed above, it’s very simple: The answer is yes, your traffic offense falls into one of those categories. In Colorado, you are not eligible to seal any traffic conviction, no matter how inconsequential or minor the traffic offense is.
Sealing Records Takes Patience
It’s important to note that, if your conviction does qualify, you must wait a certain amount of time before asking the court for sealing. Charges that have been dismissed (meaning you were arrested but not charged or convicted/found guilty) do not require a waiting period. You can immediately petition the court to seal your record.
Most cases require a window of one to two years after the case ends. Talk with an attorney to get an accurate picture of the waiting period for your particular case.
The Benefits of Having Your Record Sealed
There are some advantages to having a record sealed if you can. Remember, a criminal record can be seen in a general background check by any public citizen. This could reflect poorly on you in any situation that requires a background check.
Some of the most common reasons people seek record sealing include:
Many employers conduct criminal background checks before a final job offer. Applications often ask if you’ve ever been convicted or arrested for a crime. While you may not be disqualified for answering “yes”, it can count against you. For safety reasons, certain types of employment – like childcare – cannot hire anyone with a criminal record. This limits your employment options.
When you apply for housing, a potential landlord will perform a criminal background check. Since they can deny your application based on what turns up, a public criminal record can make finding affordable housing in desired locations quite difficult. With a sealed record, a landlord likely won’t see this information that casts you in a negative light.
If you’re trying to obtain insurance or secure a loan, a criminal record can make the process much more challenging. A company may see you as a higher risk than someone without a criminal history. As a result, your rates may be higher.
About the Author:
Andrew Bryant is a well-respected Colorado Springs criminal attorney who has been practicing in the area for years. A Colorado native, he returned to the home he loves after graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Law. Now, he uses the knowledge he gained as an El Paso County District Attorney to fight tirelessly for his clients’ rights. He is AV-Preeminent rated, has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, and has been named to Best of the Springs lists by The Gazette for years.