Expungement is the legal process where a Colorado arrest or criminal conviction is sealed. When a conviction is expunged off of an individual’s record, it will no longer be accessible to employers or members of the public. Colorado has a strict set of guidelines for expungements and restrictions for who is eligible to have their record expunged.
In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:
- 1. What is expungement in Colorado?
- 2. Expungement and Record Sealing Guidelines in Colorado
- 3. Eligibility for Expungement
Read our related article on collateral relief in Colorado.
Expungement involves the process of expunging or erasing information about a conviction from an individual’s criminal record. When a record is expunged, the public will not be able to see any criminal conviction record and the individual does not have to admit that he committed the crime. The arrest and conviction records will not show up on background checks.
“Sealing” and “expunging” criminal records are often used interchangeably in the criminal justice system. However, they are not exactly the same thing. In the state of Colorado, criminal case conviction and arrest records can be sealed. But defendants expunge their juvenile delinquent records.
When a record is sealed, the records and files of the criminal offense are hidden from the general public. The public is not able to access any records of a criminal conviction. However, authorities may still be able to access criminal records after they are sealed. In contrast, when a criminal history is expunged, it is completely erased, as if an individual never committed the crime. Expungement of juvenile delinquency records means the records are deemed never to have existed.1
Colorado has implemented relatively strict laws for sealing records. There are limited circumstances that qualify potential petitioners for the successful sealing of their offenses. Expunging juvenile records and sealing criminal records involve separate processes. There is a filing fee and may be a waiting period. And once there is a seal or expungement, it is the defendant’s responsibility to send the court order to all the relevant agencies, including the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, district attorney / prosecuting attorney, and law enforcement agency.
The limited areas in which a record can be sealed include:
- You did not receive a conviction
- You are a juvenile
- Your record involved a drug offense
- You are a victim of sex trafficking
- You were convicted of a petty or municipal offense
If you were not convicted of a crime, you may be able to petition to have your records sealed. This includes the following conditions:
- The criminal charges against you were dismissed;
- The charges against you were dropped or not filed, and the statute of limitations has expired;
- You were found not guilty in a court of law (acquittal);
There are certain terms in a case where a person may not seal arrest records despite avoiding a conviction. Dismissal due to a plea bargain / plea agreement disqualifies those who petition to seal their records. Additionally, a seal will not be brought about if a person fails to meet the conditions associated with the sentence, diversion program or deferred judgment. So if an individual still owes fines, court costs, late fees, restitution or any other fees ordered by the court, they cannot seal their records.
The absence of a conviction does guarantee sealed records. Individuals (with the exception of minors) with records concerning the following will not be able to petition to seal their records:
- Drunk driving
- Class A or B traffic infractions
- Class 1 or 2 misdemeanor traffic offenses
- Cases involving a holder of a commercial driver’s license, or operating a commercial motor vehicle 2
Juvenile cases can be expunged and treated as if the juvenile delinquency record never occurred. According to the Colorado Children’s Code, a person can send a petition to the District Court, or the juvenile court, if appropriate to have their record expunged. A petition can only be filed once during a 12-month period. 3
Not all juvenile offenses are eligible for expungement. A juvenile is not eligible to petition for an expungement order if they were:
- Adjudicated for an offense involving unlawful sexual behavior
- Adjudicated an aggravated juvenile offender
- Adjudicated a violent juvenile offender
- Charged by the direct filing of an indictment in district court as a juvenile and received an adult sentence
- Failed to pay court-ordered restitution to a victim
Under Colorado law, many individuals who have been convicted of certain controlled substance offenses are eligible to have their records sealed.
A controlled substance is a drug or a chemical whose possession, manufacture, or use is regulated and supervised by the government. Illicit drugs and prescription medications are considered controlled substances. Individuals charged with a controlled substance offense may petition to have their records sealed if they meet the following requirements:
- All conditions of a sentence are satisfied;
- It has been a minimum of 10 years since the end of all proceedings against a person or a person’s release from supervision concerning a criminal conviction; and
- An individual has not been convicted or charged with a crime within that 10 year period.
- If it is a petty offense or a Class 2 or 3 misdemeanor, it has been three years since the end of all criminal proceedings);
- If it is a class 1 misdemeanor, it has been five years since the end of all criminal proceedings;
- If it is a class 5 or 6 felony, it has been ten years since the end of all criminal proceedings. 4
Many crimes relating to sex trafficking can be sealed from the public through filing a petition.5 This includes convictions for:
Petty and municipal (a violation of city law) offenses may also be sealed. In most cases, an individual in Colorado can petition to have their petty or municipal offenses sealed if they meet the following conditions:
- Three or more years have passed since the date of conviction and the last day of court supervision;
- You have not been charged or convicted of a felony, misdemeanor, or misdemeanor traffic offense in the three or more years since the final disposition of all criminal proceedings; and
- The violation is not for a misdemeanor traffic offense committed by a holder of a commercial driver’s license (CDL).10
Call us for help…
If you have a criminal conviction on your record, you may be able to have your Colorado criminal record sealed. Our law firm creates attorney-client relationships throughout the state, including Denver, Colorado Springs, Boulder, and more. Contact our defense attorneys for free legal advice on how to seal records.
Also see our articles on professional licenses in Colorado:
- How convictions affect contractor licenses in Colorado
- How convictions affect nursing licenses in Colorado
- How convictions affect real estate licenses in Colorado
- How convictions affect medical licenses in Colorado
- How convictions affect dental licenses in Colorado
- How convictions affect social work licenses in Colorado
- How convictions affect accountancy licenses in Colorado
- How convictions affect law licenses in Colorado
- CRS 19-1-103(48).
- CRS 24-72-308.
- CRS 24-72-704(1).
- CRS 19-1-306.
- CRS 24-72-706.
- CRS 18-7-201.
- CRS 18-7-202.
- CRS 18-7-204.
- CRS 18-7-301.
- CRS 24-72-708.