Getting criminal records sealed in Denver, Colorado

A record seal in Colorado is when a person gets his/her criminal history hidden from public view. Once a criminal record is sealed, it no longer comes up on background checks. So a record seal can greatly improve a person's employment prospects.

Record seals are not available to everyone under Colorado law. Offenses that may be sealed include (1) drug crimes, (2) petty offenses, (3) municipal violations, (4) underage alcohol and marijuana offenses, (5) underage drinking and driving (UDD), and (6) juvenile offenses.

The record sealing process in Colorado typically involves obtaining copies of past police reports, filing a petition with the court, and paying a filing fee. If the court grants a record seal, the person can legally deny ever having been arrested or convicted of a crime (with rare exception). 

Below our Denver record seal attorneys discuss the laws, processes, times frames, and fees for sealing arrest and conviction records in Colorado. Click on a topic to go to that section: 

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Once a person gets his/her criminal record sealed in Colorado, he/she can lawfully deny ever having had a brush with the law.

1. What is a record seal in Colorado?

Whenever people in Colorado are arrested or convicted, it goes on their "criminal record." These records are typically accessible to the public through an internet background check.

Like it sounds, a record seal "seals" a person's Colorado records so that they no longer come up in background checks. In essence, sealing makes a criminal record invisible.1

For example, people convicted of petty offenses in Denver County Court may be eligible to get those record sealed. So if they were to apply for a job, those petty offense convictions should not show up on their future background checks.

1.1. Sealing versus expungement

Sealing makes a person's criminal record invisible. Expunging is when a person's criminal record is physically destroyed. As explained below, Colorado permits expungement for only juvenile offenses and underage drinking and driving convictions.

The advantage of expunged records is that they are gone forever. Sealed records may still be accessible to government agencies or insurance companies depending on the circumstances. But in practice, most people in the general public have no way of finding a sealed record.2

2.What is the advantage of getting a criminal record sealed?

Many employers will not consider job applicants with criminal records. Therefore, having a record seal vastly improves the person's job prospects. Having a criminal record may also be socially stigmatizing, so a seal puts the person on a more equal footing with others.

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Not all criminal records are sealable in the state of Colorado.

3. What criminal records can be sealed in Colorado?

Whether a person is qualified for a record seal in Colorado depends on the following factors:

  • the type of crime,
  • whether the defendant was ultimately convicted,
  • the defendant's age, and/or
  • when the case was dismissed or closed

Note that a criminal case is considered "closed" once there has been a final disposition and the person completed all the sentencing terms.

Continue scrolling down to learn the various types of cases that may be sealed in Colorado.3

3.1. Arrest records

An arrest is just the beginning of a criminal case, and many arrests never result in a conviction. A person may be eligible to have his/her arrest records sealed right away in any of the following situations:

  • The person was arrested but not ultimately charged with a crime;
  • The person's case was eventually dismissed (which means there was no conviction); and/or
  • The person was acquitted (found "not guilty") of the charge(s).

Note that a person might be ineligible for a record seal if the charge was dropped only because he/she took a plea bargain in a separate case.4

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Arrests which do not result in a conviction are sealable in Colorado.

3.2. Conviction records

In Colorado, convictions for most petty offenses, municipal violations, and drug crimes are sealable. The eligibility requirements turn on the specific offense and the length of time that has passed since the conviction:

3.2.1. Petty offenses and municipal violations (not related to drugs)

A judge may seal a person's convictions for petty offenses and municipal violations unrelated to controlled substances if the following conditions are true:

  • The record seal petition is filed three (3) or more years after the case is closed; and
  • The person has not been charged with or convicted of a felony, misdemeanor, or misdemeanor traffic offense in the three (3) or more years since the date the case closed.

Note that Colorado misdemeanor traffic offenses committed by a holder of a commercial learner's permit or driver's license may not be sealed.5

3.2.2. Drug convictions prior to July 1, 2008

A judge may seal a person's controlled substance convictions entered prior to July 1, 2008 as long as the prosecuting attorney does not object.6

3.2.2. Drug convictions from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2011

The two threshold requirements for sealing certain drug convictions entered from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2011 are:

  1. The petition to seal is filed ten (10) or more years after the drug case closed; and
  2. The person has not been charged with or convicted of a criminal offense in the ten (10) or more years since the date the drug case closed.

If the person meets the above two requirements, a judge may seal his/her drug conviction that fit either of the following criteria:

  • Any petty offense or misdemeanor in violation of Colorado's drug laws; and/or
  • Any offense that would be classified as a class 5 or 6 felony in violation of Colorado's drug laws if the offense were to have occurred on July 1, 2008; and/or
  • Any class 5 felony or class 6 felony in violation of Colorado's drug laws other than a class 5 or 6 felony conviction for:

3.2.3. Drug convictions from July 1, 2011 to the present

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Most drug crimes in Colorado are sealable.

For Colorado drug convictions entered on or after July 1, 2011, a person's record seal eligibility hinges on two factors:

  1. the type of drug offense, and
  2. amount of time that has passed since the case closed
3.2.3.1. Petty drug offenses and petty offenses:

The petition to seal may be filed three (3) years after the case closed if the offense is either:

  • a petty offense,
  • a class 2 misdemeanor,
  • a class 3 misdemeanor, or
  • a level 2 drug misdemeanor

If the offense is a petty drug offense in Colorado, the petition to seal may be filed one (1) year after the case closed.

3.2.3.2. Misdemeanor drug offenses and misdemeanor offenses

If the offense is a class 1 misdemeanor or a level 1 drug misdemeanor, the petition to seal may be filed five (5) years after the case closed.

3.2.3.3. Felony drug felonies and felonies

If the offense is a level 4 drug felony or a class 5 felony, the petition to seal may be filed seven (7) years after the case closed.8

And for all other drug-related offenses, the petition to seal may be filed ten (10) years after the case closed.9

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Most juvenile records in Colorado may be expunged.

3.3. Juvenile and Underage records

In Colorado, "juvenile" means under 18 years old, and "underage" means under 21 years old. People who committed certain crimes while juvenile or underage may be eligible to get their records expunged or sealed:

3.3.1. Underage DUI

A conviction for underage drinking and driving (UDD) where the blood alcohol level was at least .02 but no more than .05 may be expunged if the following are true:

  1. The person is over 21;
  2. The person has not had a second UDD conviction; and
  3. The case has closed; and
  4. He/she has never held a commercial driver's license and was not operating a commercial motor vehicle.

Note that the records in this case would be totally expunged.10

3.3.2. Underage alcohol convictions prior to July 1, 2014

Convictions for possessing or consuming alcohol while under 21 may sealable if:

  1. At least one (1) year has passed since the case closed; and
  2. The person has not been arrested for another conviction for possessing or consuming alcohol.

Note that this rule applies to convictions prior to July 1, 2014.11

3.3.3. Underage alcohol or marijuana convictions from July 1, 2014 on

Convictions for possessing or consuming alcohol, marijuana, or marijuana paraphernalia while under 21 may be sealable if:

  1. At least (1) one year has passed since the case closed; and
  2. The person has obtained a verified copy of his/her criminal history that is current as of at least 20 days prior to the date of the filing of the petition to seal.

Note that this rule applies to convictions on July 1, 2014 and after.12

3.3.4. Juvenile records

People with juvenile records can usually get them expunged if the following three conditions are true.

  1. He/she has not since been adjudicated as a juvenile delinquent for, or convicted of, any felony or misdemeanor offense involving domestic violence, unlawful sexual behavior, or possession of a weapon; and
  2. There are no felony, misdemeanor, or delinquency actions pending or being instituted against him/her; and
  3. He/she has paid all court-ordered restitution or is current on a restitution repayment agreement with the court collections investigator.

Also note that the person has to request a court hearing in order to get an expungement.13

3.4. Unsealable convictions

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Traffic tickets (such as speeding) are not sealable in Colorado.

Criminal convictions for any of the following crimes can never be sealed in Colorado:

  • Sex crimes
  • DUI
  • Class 1 misdemeanor traffic offenses
  • Class 2 misdemeanor traffic offenses
  • Class A traffic infractions
  • Class B traffic infractions
  • crimes involving a commercial driver's license

Therefore, people convicted of these crimes may not get their records sealed.14

4. When can I get my criminal record sealed in Colorado?

It depends on the case. Assuming all other requirements are met, the waiting periods for petitioning for a record seal or expungement are the following:

Colorado offense Waiting period to petition for record seal in Colorado

Arrest records which do not result in a conviction

Immediately

Petty offenses and municipal violations (not related to drugs)

Three (3) years after the case is closed

Drug convictions prior to July 1, 2008

Immediately

Drug convictions from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2011

Ten (10) years after the case is closed

Petty drug offenses from July 1, 2011 to the present

One (1) year after the case is closed

Petty offenses, class 2 misdemeanors, class 3 misdemeanors, and level 2 drug misdemeanors from July 1, 2011 to the present

Three (3) years after the case is closed

Class 1 misdemeanors and level 1 drug misdemeanors from July 1, 2011 to the present

Five (5) years after the case is closed

Level 4 drug felonies, class 5 felonies or class 6 felony drug possession offenses from July 1, 2011 to the present

Seven (7) years after the case is closed

Other drug offenses in C.R.S. Title 18, article 18 from July 1, 2011 to the present

Ten (10) years after the case is closed

Underage possession/ consumption of alcohol convictions that occurred prior to July 1, 2014

One (1) year after case is closed

Underage possession/ consumption of alcohol or marijuana convictions that occurred on July 1, 2014 or later

One (1) year after conviction

Underage DUI convictions (UDD) with a BAL of .02 to .05.

Immediately after age 21

Juvenile records

Up to five (5) years, depending on the circumstances. Dismissals and acquittals can be sealed immediately.

5. If I get a record seal, can I say no if someone asks me if I have a criminal record?

In most situations, yes. During a job interview or under oath, people with record seals may deny ever having a brush with the law.15

But there are narrow circumstances where people with sealed or expunged records have to fess up. For example, people applying to the Colorado Bar to become a lawyer have to disclose their criminal record.16

6. How much does it cost to get a record seal in Colorado?

It depends on the type of record being sealed. The schedule of Colorado record seal fees is below:

Colorado offense Record seal court filing fee

Arrest records which do not result in a conviction

$224

Petty offenses and municipal violation convictions (not related to drugs)

$424 plus a $27.98 processing fee

Drug convictions prior to July 1, 2008

$624 plus a $27.98 processing fee and all reasonable attorney fees and costs incurred by the prosecuting attorney.

Drug convictions from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2011

$424 plus a $27.98 processing fee

Drug convictions from July 1, 2011 to the present

$224 plus a $27.98 processing fee

Underage possession/ consumption of alcohol convictions that occurred prior to July 1, 2014

$0

Underage possession/ consumption of alcohol or marijuana convictions that occurred on July 1, 2014 or later

$0

Underage DUI convictions (UDD) with a BAL of .02 to .05.

$0

Juvenile records

$0

7. If I am eligible for a record seal, will a judge definitely seal it?

Usually, yes. But whether a judge will grant a person's petition to seal records is within the judge's discretion. A record seal is never guaranteed.17

8. How do I get my criminal record sealed in Colorado?

It depends on the type of record being sealed. Typically, the process of getting a Colorado record seal involves the following six steps:

  1. Obtain records. First, the person gets a copy of his/her criminal records from the police department.
  2. Obtain criminal history. Next, the person may have to get a current verified copy of his/her criminal history from the Colorado Bureau of Investigations (CBI).
  3. Complete the appropriate forms. Third, the person has to fill out the appropriate petition to seal forms.
  4. File the petition. Once the forms are filled out, the person files them with the appropriate court (which is usually the court where the case occurred). For example, a criminal case heard in Denver District Court could also be sealed by that same court.
  5. Court reviews the petition. The court will then either accept or deny the petition. In some cases, the court will schedule a hearing before deciding whether to issue an order to seal.
  6. Send orders to agencies. If the judge issues an order to seal, the person then sends copies to all of the agencies that have his/her criminal records on file (such as the police department and the CBI).

 Links to the specific forms a record seal petitioner needs to complete are below:

Colorado offense Links to “Petition to Seal” instructions and forms

Arrest records which do not result in a conviction

JDF 477 - Motion to Seal Criminal Justice Records Pursuant to §24-72-702.5 C.R.S.

Convictions of petty offenses, municipal violations, and drug crimes

JDF 612 - Petition to Seal Criminal Conviction Records

Underage possession/ consumption of alcohol convictions that occurred prior to July 1, 2014

JDF 313(a) - Petition to Seal Records Related to Underage Possession and Consumption of Underage Alcohol (MIP)

Underage possession/ consumption of alcohol or marijuana convictions that occurred on July 1, 2014 or later

JDF 313(b) - Petition to Seal Record Related to Underage Possession and Consumption of Underage Alcohol or Marijuana (MIP) or Possession of Marijuana Paraphernalia

Underage DUI convictions (UDD) with a BAL of .02 to .05.

JDF 305 - Petition for Expungement of UDD (Under Age Drinking and Driving)

Juvenile records

JDF 302 - Petition for Expungement of Records

9. How long does it take to get criminal records sealed?

The judge may take a few days or weeks to determine whether to grant an order to seal. If the judge grants it, the person must mail copies of the order to the various agencies that have his/her criminal records on file (such as the police department that arrested him/her)...

Once the agencies receive the order in the mail, the person's criminal records should be sealed within about 30 days.18

10. What if my petition to seal is denied?

The court will mail back a letter outlining the reasons why the petition to seal was denied. The person may be able to correct any mistakes on the petition to seal and re-submit it.19

11. Can my criminal record be partially sealed in Colorado?

No. If a person's criminal history contains any unsealable convictions, then none of his/her record may be sealed.20

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Call our Colorado criminal defense attorneys at (720) 955-6112.

Need a record seal in Colorado? Call us...

If you have a criminal record in Colorado, contact our Denver criminal defense attorneys at (720) 955-6112 for a FREE consultation. We may be able to get it sealed or expunged. Sealing your criminal records will greatly increase your employment opportunities. It will also put you on a more even playing field with your friends and colleagues.


Legal References

  1. C.R.S. § 24-72.
  2. See C.B. v. People, 122 P.3d 1065 (Colo. App. 2005); People v. Wright, 43 Colo. App. 30, 598 P.2d  157 (1979).
  3. See C.R.S. § 24-72.
  4. C.R.S. § 24-72-702.5.
  5. C.R.S. § 24-72-708.
  6. C.R.S. § 24-72-704(2)(b).
  7. C.R.S. § 24-72-704.
  8. This section also comprises class 6 felony drug possession offenses described in C.R.S. §18-18-403.5 as it existed prior to October 1, 2013, and C.R.S. §18-18-404 or C.R.S. §18-18-405 as it existed prior to August 11, 2010.
  9. C.R.S. § 24-72-705.
  10. C.R.S. § 42-4-1715.
  11. C.R.S. § 18-13-122(2).
  12. C.R.S. § 18-13-122.
  13. C.R.S. § 19-1-306.
  14. See C.R.S. § 24-72-702.
  15. People v. Bushu, 876 P.2d 106 (Colo. App. 1994).
  16. Colorado Supreme Court, Office of Regulation Counsel, The Truth, the Whole Truth, and... (Winter, 2015)
  17. See In re T.L.M., 39 P.3d 1239 (Colo. App. 2001).
  18. See Colorado Judicial Branch.
  19. Id.
  20. C.R.S. § 24-72.

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