Why You Should Consider Sealing Criminal Records
A criminal record can haunt you for years after the incident is long behind you. It can interfere with your ability to get a job, get into college, receive federal student financial aid, or rent a home. That’s why you should consider sealing criminal records.
You may think your record is automatically cleared if your case is dropped, dismissed, or you are acquitted. This is not the case. Furthermore, you must request to seal your record.
Online search tools make it easy for just about anyone to uncover personal details about you, including arrests and convictions. Your criminal history is an open book to potential employers, landlords, vendors, even neighbors who want to dig into your past.
The stigma of a criminal arrest can stain your reputation, interfere with your life, and create problems for your family.
Above all, your criminal record should not prevent you from taking steps to improve your life.
You Deserve a Fresh Start
Robinson & Henry’s experienced criminal attorneys may be able to seal or erase your criminal record so you can move toward a new beginning. Give us a call at (303) 688-0944 to schedule your free initial assessment.
Increased Eligibility for Sealing Criminal Records in Colorado
In 2019, Governor Jared Polis signed HB 19-1275, called the Increased Eligibility for Criminal Record Sealing bill, into law.
Under the bill, more people will qualify to request to have their criminal records sealed. The bill also simplifies and expedites the record sealing process for certain individuals.
The Difference Between Sealing Criminal Records and Expungement
You may hear people interchangeably use sealing and expungement. However, they have different definitions in Colorado.
In Colorado, only juveniles may have their records expunged, or, in other words, destroyed. In a sense, the criminal record never existed.
However, minors involved in violent crimes are not eligible to have their record wiped out.
In contrast, sealing records in our state deals with adult crimes. When an adult has a criminal record sealed, the record still exists, but the general public doesn’t have access to it.
Some individuals and agencies will still be able to review the sealed records, however, including prosecutors, law enforcement, and agencies required by law to conduct criminal history checks.
Your records will be unsealed if you are convicted of another crime.
Which Records Can be Sealed in Colorado?
- Arrests that do not result in charges
- Arrests after which charges are dropped
- Arrests that result in an acquittal
- Arrests that are dismissed due to a guilty plea in another case
- Arrests made when you were a juvenile (expungement)
- Arrests due to mistaken identity and no charges are filed (expungement)
- A diversion agreement is completed and no charges are filed
- A deferred judgment and sentence are completed and all counts are dismissed
- Statute of limitations has run and no charges are filed
- Statute of limitations has not run, but you’re no longer being investigated
- Certain drug convictions even when there is a guilty plea
- Convictions for offenses committed by human trafficking victims
What is Not Eligible to be Sealed?
You’re not eligible to have records sealed if you are convicted of a class 1, 2, or 3 felony or a level 1 drug felony.
Also ineligible are:
- Sexual offenses
- Domestic Violence Convictions (domestic violence charges that are dismissed can be sealed)
- DUI Convictions
- Class 1 or 2 misdemeanor traffic offenses
- Class A or B traffic infractions
Also, you must settle any court-ordered debts before the court will grant your request. That means you must pay outstanding restitution, fines, fees, or court costs before your motion to seal will be considered.
How Long Do I Have to Wait to Apply to Seal My Criminal Record?
When you can file a motion to have your criminal records sealed depends on the crime. You can request to seal lower-level crimes sooner.
The Increased Eligibility for Criminal Record Sealing bill simplifies the sealing process for some defendants. If you qualify, the court will seal the records within the criminal case without requiring you to file a separate civil action.
You are eligible for the more streamlined process if:
- Your case is completely dismissed
- You are acquitted on all counts
- You complete a diversion agreement when a criminal case is filed
- You complete a deferred judgment and sentence and all counts are dismissed
Generally, you make a sealing request in a separate civil action. And it takes place after you’re released from supervision or your criminal proceeding’s final disposition.
Importantly, the changes that took effect in 2019 allow you to petition to have your records sealed without a separate civil action for the following criminal convictions:
- Petty Offense & Drug Petty Offense – one year after final dispositions or release
- Class 2, 3 Misdemeanor – two years after final dispositions or release
- Drug Misdemeanor – two years after final dispositions or release
- Class 4, 5, or 6 Felony – three years after final disposition or release
- Level 3 or 4 Drug Felony – three years after final disposition or release
- Class 1 Misdemeanor – three years after final disposition or release
Just because you request to have your records sealed does not mean the court will grant it.
The court usually does not authorize requests if you are convicted of another crime. Also, in some cases, the district attorney or a victim can request a hearing to block your petition.
Plea Agreements and the New Sealing Criminal Records Rules
While the practice has become increasingly uncommon, some district attorneys include a provision in plea deals that waives a person’s right to ask for their criminal record to be sealed later.
The state of Colorado prohibits that provision beginning August 3, 2019.
A defendant shall not be required to waive his or her right to file a motion to seal. Pursuant to the provisions of this section as a condition of a plea agreement in any case.
C.R.S.A. § 24-72-705
You will likely be able to bring an action to petition to seal your criminal record if you waived your right to seal it as part of your plea deal.
Contact Robinson & Henry at 303-688-0944 to request a free initial assessment with one of our criminal defense attorneys. They can shed some light on how this 2019 law affects you.
What’s the Sealing Criminal Records Process?
It’s a complex and time-consuming process to have your records sealed or expunged. As a result, it can take several months to complete.
The changes to the sealing law should speed up the process for some individuals. However, there’s no guarantee you won’t face roadblocks along the way, such as an objection hearing.
Our attorneys will petition the court to seal your criminal records. If you face challenges you will have a professional advocate who will fight for your rights in court.
Here’s a simplified list of filing steps:
- Obtain arrest and criminal records
- Obtain a current verified copy of your criminal history
- Complete appropriate forms
- File the case with the court
- Wait for the court to review and determine if a hearing will be set
- Prepare for hearing
- Notify the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and other appropriate agencies by mail of the approved seal
Finally, the sooner you act, the sooner you can begin to put the past behind you.
Talk to a Criminal Defense Attorney About Sealing Criminal Records
Don’t wait to discover there’s a problem. Stay ahead of the curve. This is your future. Schedule your meeting at 303-688-0944 to discuss sealing criminal records.