Expunging a record means to erase or eliminate that information from an individual’s permanent criminal record and public records. After expungement, the criminal conviction will not appear if an individual’s background is checked. 

This process may assist an individual who is applying for employment or searching for a residence. Depending on the individual’s location, they may be permitted to file a petition with the court for a crime to be expunged from their record.

The rules and requirements for expungement vary from state to state. Generally, it is easier to expunge or seal minor crimes, including  misdemeanors, and juvenile records. Some states allow felony crimes to be expunged.

There are several reasons why an individual may want to have a crime expunged from their record. For example, certain convictions may cause problems when an individual is trying to get a job, a professional license, or the right to vote, especially in the case of a felony conviction. An arrest and criminal prosecution on an individual’s record, even if they are not convicted, may still cause similar issues. 

If an individual’s record is sealed, the general public will not be able to access part or all of the individual’s criminal record when they search through their history. The record will still exist, but who has access to the record will be limited. The information below will provide a short guide to sealing or expunging an individual’s Colorado criminal records.

What Is the Difference Between Sealing and Expunging a Criminal Record in Colorado?

Although the terms expunged and sealed may appear interchangeable, there are significant differences between them. The main difference between the two is that an individual’s criminal records will still exist even if they are sealed. The records or files will still be there, they just cannot be accessed by employers or other individuals. 

Typically, it is standard procedure for an individual’s juvenile criminal record to be sealed once they reach the age of 18. They can, however, still be accessed via court order.

Expungement, on the other hand, results in an actual deletion or erasing of criminal charges or arrest files, as if they never occurred. There are certain charges that may be more difficult to have expunged than others. For example, as noted above, misdemeanor charges are typically easier to expunge than felony charges.

The laws concerning criminal record sealing or expungement vary from state to state. An individual’s eligibility for these processes usually depends on the type of crime involved.

What is Juvenile Expungement?

Having a criminal record expunged is a rare occurrence in Colorado. It is typically only granted to juveniles and in limited circumstances.

In order to have an individual’s juvenile record expunged, the petitioner can file a request with the District Court. If the request is granted, the law will regard the record as if it never existed in the first place.

However, there are certain crimes that cannot be expunged, even when the offender is a juvenile. For example, if a defendant is adjudicated as an aggravated or violent offender, or commits a sexual offense, the court will not grant a request to expunge their record. 

Can You Seal Your Criminal Record as an Adult?

Expungement is not available in Colorado to adults or juveniles that were charged as adults. Instead, Colorado provides a select group of individuals the opportunity to have their records sealed. 

If an individual’s record is sealed, the public cannot access any information related to the charges without a signed court order, which may be difficult to obtain. Law enforcement and other authorities may still access the records, but only in limited circumstances. 

There are strict guidelines for sealing records in Colorado as well as for which individuals can and cannot petition for record sealing. The select individuals who may request record sealing typically include the following categories:

  • No conviction;
  • Drug offenses;
  • Sex-trafficing victims; or
  • Misdemeanor or municipal offenses.

If an individual’s case was dismissed, the charges against them were dropped and the statute of limitation on the offense has run, or an individual was found not guilty in a court of law, they can petition to have the records sealed. Cases that may be eligible for sealing include the completion of a diversionary program, such as drug court and a case of mistaken identity. 

Cases that will not be eligible for sealing include:

  • A dismissal that an individual receives via a plea bargain is not eligible for sealing;
  • Any arrests or other records of drunk driving;
  • Any class A or B traffic violations;
  • Any class 1 or 2 misdemeanor traffic offenses; or 
  • any offense while operating a vehicle with a commercial driver’s license (CDL). 

In Colorado, individuals convicted under certain controlled substances laws may petition for their records to be sealed. If the required amount of time, usually 10 years, has passed without any further legal issues after the individual has served their time or satisfied all requirements of their probationary period, they may be eligible to seal their record. Sealing may not be a possibility if the drug-related offense was committed along with a violent crime.

Many sex-related crimes are eligible for record sealing. These include charges of prostitution and other crimes that sex trafficking victims are often convicted of during that period of their lives.

Some violations of city ordinances or other minor/petty offenses or misdemeanors are eligible for record sealing. After 3 years with no additional legal proceedings, a court will hear a petition to seal this type of record. Any violations that occurred while operating under a CDL are not eligible for sealing.

How Do I Begin the Sealing/Expungement Process?

The majority of Colorado courts have forms for juvenile expungement or record sealing either at the courthouse, online, or both. However, it is important to consult with a criminal defense attorney prior to filing any forms. An experienced attorney can tell if an individual’s record is eligible for sealing under Colorado law, and will know what jurisdiction in which to file the petition in order to save time and avoid any rejections. 

Additionally, many offenses only permit an individual to file a certain number of petitions in a certain amount of time. For example, a juvenile can only file a petition once every 12 months. 

Therefore, having the best possible petition along with the best evidence can save a petitioner a lot of time and stress. An attorney will also be an advocate at any hearings to ensure the petitioner has the best chance at success.

Will I Need a Colorado Attorney for Help with Expungement?

Yes, it is essential to have the help of an experienced expungement lawyers for any expungement issues. Although a citizen can obtain sealing or expungement forms without an attorney, it is critical for a petitioner to consult with a lawyer prior to taking any steps. Because there may be a limited number of opportunities an individual has to seal or expunge their record, it is important to have the help of a lawyer.

It is also important to have the assistance of a lawyer who is familiar with the laws of your jurisdiction. For example, a resident of Denver would most likely want to hire an expungement lawyer in Denver to ensure they are familiar with Denver rules and regulations.

Hiring an attorney to assist you with an expungement petition may be the difference between having the petition granted or denied. An attorney will help you complete the forms, submit them to the proper court, and represent you during any court proceedings, if necessary.