Getting criminal records sealed in Denver, Colorado

Updated

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.

The record sealing process in Colorado typically involves

  1. obtaining copies of past police reports,
  2. filing a petition with the court, and
  3. paying a filing fee

Not everyone is eligible for record seals. 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 Colorado criminal defense 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:

Read our related article on collateral relief in Colorado.

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. The records are made unavailable but law enforcement and prosecution entities still have access.

Expunging is actually the destruction of criminal records. As explained below, Colorado permits expungement for only juvenile offenses and underage drinking and driving convictions.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.

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. Dismissals

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.

When defendants have pleaded guilty to most offenses as part of a straight deferred judgment, they are eligible for a record seal once they have successfully completed it and the case gets dismissed. Note that if the case is a "split plea" - meaning it included a deferral as well as a conviction to a misdemeanor or traffic that was not deferred - then the deferred charge cannot be sealed even if the defendant successfully completes the sentencing terms.4

3.2. Convictions

Convictions are potentially sealable unless they are:

As discussed in section 5, there is a waiting period to seal criminal convictions. But there is no waiting period to seal charges that have been dismissed.

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.6

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 date of final disposition of all criminal proceedings against the defendant or his/her release from supervision concerning a criminal conviction, whichever is later; 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, 2014.7

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 date of final disposition of all criminal proceedings against the defendant or his/her release from supervision concerning a criminal conviction, whichever is later; 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.8

3.3.4. Juvenile records

People with juvenile offense 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 currently 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.9

4. Can you seal a felony criminal record in Colorado?

It depends on the case. The only felony convictions that may be sealed are:

As discussed in the previous section, felony convictions for sex crimes, DUIs, and domestic violence are never sealable in Colorado. But any felony that gets dismissed -- meaning there is no conviction -- can be sealed.

As discussed in the next section, dismissed cases can be sealed right away. Level 2 drug felony convictions can be sealed five years after the case ends. And the remaining felonies are sealable three years after the case ends.

5. 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 conviction

Waiting period to petition for record seal in Colorado

Arrest records which do not result in a conviction

Immediately

Petty offenses and petty drug offenses

One (1) year after the case ends

Class 2 misdemeanors and class 3 misdemeanors

Two (2) years after the case ends

Drug misdemeanors

Two (2) years after the case ends

Class 4 felonies, class 5 felonies, and class 6 felonies

Three (3) years after the case ends

Level 3 drug felonies and Level 4 drug felonies

Three (3) years after the case ends

Class 1 misdemeanors

Three (3) years after the case ends

All other offenses

Five (5) years after the case ends

Most municipal and misdemeanor crimes by victims of human trafficking

Immediately

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

One (1) year after the date of the final disposition of all criminal proceedings against you or your release from supervision concerning a criminal conviction, whichever is later

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.

6. 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.10

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.11

Also see our articles on professional licenses in Colorado:

7. 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

Convictions

$65

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

8. 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.12

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

It depends on the type of record being sealed. Usually, the defendant needs to file a motion with the court. 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 417 - Petition to Seal Arrest & Criminal Records

Convictions

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

10. 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.13

11. 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.14

12. 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.15

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

If you have a criminal record in Colorado, contact our Denver criminal defense attorneys at (303)v222-0330 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.

Arrested for DUI in Nevada? Read our articles on sealing Nevada criminal records and sealing DUI records in Nevada.


Legal References

  1. 24-72 CRS.
  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 24-72 CRS.
  4. 24-72-702.5 CRS.
  5. HB19-1275.
  6. 42-4-1715 CRS.
  7. 18-13-122(2) CRS.
  8. 18-13-122 CRS.
  9. 19-1-306 CRS.
  10. People v. Bushu, 876 P.2d 106 (Colo. App. 1994).
  11. Colorado Supreme Court, Office of Regulation Counsel, The Truth, the Whole Truth, and... (Winter, 2015).
  12. See In re T.L.M., 39 P.3d 1239 (Colo. App. 2001).
  13. See Colorado Judicial Branch.
  14. Id.
  15. 24-72 CRS.

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