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Will a deferred sentence show up on a Colorado background check?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Sep 09, 2019 | 0 Comments

It depends on whether the background check is taken during the deferred sentencing period or after the case is over in Colorado, and whether the defendant successfully completed the deferred sentencing period.

Deferred judgment status in Colorado

What a background check would probably show

Ongoing (the defendant is currently in the probationary period)

  • Arrest,
  • Charge, and
  • Guilty plea

After successful completion

  • Arrest, and
  • Charge

Note that nothing will show up on future background checks if the defendant gets the case sealed.

After revocation (failure to complete)

  • Arrest,
  • Charge,
  • Guilty plea, and
  • Conviction

During the deferred sentencing period in Colorado

If a background check is taken while a deferred sentencing period is ongoing, then the background check would probably show the following:

  • the arrest,
  • the charge, and
  • the defendant's guilty plea (which is required for the judge to allow the defendant to get a deferred judgment)

But the background check will not show a conviction. Judges do not convict defendants during a deferred judgment. This is because if the defendant completes the deferred judgment successfully, the judge will withdraw the guilty plea and dismiss the case.

If the defendant applies for a job during this time, he/she should be honest if the employer asks whether he/she has ever pleaded guilty. But the applicant can also explain that he/she has not been convicted either. And as long as the applicant completes the deferred sentence, the guilty plea will be withdrawn, and the case will be dismissed without any conviction.

After successful completion of the deferred sentence in Colorado

If the background check is taken after the defendant completes the deferred judgment period, then a background check would probably show the following:

  • the arrest, and
  • the charge

But it will not show a conviction or the defendant's guilty plea. This is because the judge withdrew the defendant's guilty plea upon successful completion of the deferred sentencing period. And since the defendant successfully completed the deferred judgment period, there would be no conviction.

If the defendant applies for a job, the defendant can then honestly say there is no guilty plea. (Some professional license applications ask if the defendant ever pleaded guilty even if the charge was later dismissed. In these situations, the defendant can talk with an attorney about whether he/she should reveal the guilty plea or not. It is usually best to be honest.) 

Note that once a case gets dismissed following a deferred judgment, the defendant is eligible to get the entire case sealed. Record sealing is not automatic, and it is a lengthy process to petition the court to seal a dismissal. But it is worth it:

Once the case gets sealed, future background checks will not even show the original arrest and criminal charge. And the defendant can legally say on job applications that he/she was never arrested or criminally charged. Learn about how to seal criminal records in Colorado.

After the deferred sentence gets revoked in Colorado

If the background check is taken after the defendant fails to complete the deferred judgment by violating the probationary terms, then a background check would probably show the following;

  • the arrest,
  • the charge,
  • the defendant's guilty plea, and
  • the conviction

Once the judge revokes a defendant's deferred judgment, the judge accepts the defendant's original guilty plea and convicts the defendant. Therefore, the background check would show the plea as well as the conviction as if the deferred judgment never happened.

Note that different background checks show different things, and they vary state-by-state. Also, everyone's case is different. To anticipate what your background check would show, consult with an attorney to review your case status.

Learn more about deferred judgments and sentencing in Colorado (C.R.S. 18-1.3-102) and violating a deferred judgment in Colorado.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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