6 Things to Know About Sealing Your Criminal Record
Posted By: Jacob Martinez
Category: Expungement / Criminal Record Sealing
Mistakes of our past should not prevent us from pursuing a constructive future. Unfortunately, a criminal record can make it difficult to find housing, gain employment, and even obtain insurance.
According to an American Academy of Pediatrics publication, nearly one-third of American adults have been arrested by age 23. In Colorado, individuals with prior convictions have the opportunity to expunge or “seal” their criminal record if the situation meets specific eligibility guidelines. If you have been charged with a crime, here’s what you should know about sealing your criminal record.
1. You Must Meet Certain Qualifications
Colorado law allows for the sealing of criminal records under specific and limited circumstances. Individuals who may qualify to have all court and police records sealed or expunged include:
- Those who have been wrongfully accused of a crime
- Those who have been acquitted of charges
- Those who have successfully completed the terms of their probation, sentence, or diversion program
- Those who have had charges against them dismissed
2. You Must File a Petition
A petition to seal your criminal record involves a civil proceeding that is separate from the criminal case at hand. The Petition for Expungement of Records must be filed in the District Court, or Denver Juvenile Court in the case of juvenile offenders. When attempting to seal a juvenile record, a parent or guardian may also initiate expungement proceedings.
3. You May Have to Wait to File
If you were found not guilty in juvenile court, or if you have successfully completed a juvenile diversion program or qualifying informal adjustment, you can petition for expungement of your juvenile record immediately. In all other scenarios, you must wait a certain amount of time before filing a petition. Colorado law states that a petition to expunge a record may only be filed once during a 12-month period. You must also wait:
- One year from the date of the court’s jurisdiction termination after successfully completing probation.
- One year from the date of contact with law enforcement if that contact did not result in a referral for further action.
- Three years from the end of your parole supervision, court supervision, or commitment to the department of human services.
- Five years from the end of your parole or court supervision if you were found to be a mandatory or repeat juvenile defender but have not committed any further criminal violations.
4. You Will Need to Gather Information
To successfully proceed with your expungement, you will need to gather certain critical information, including knowing the corresponding arrest, case, and report numbers related to the conviction. If you were able to get your case dismissed in court by making a plea agreement in a separate case, you will also need to obtain that case number.
5. You May Not Be Eligible to Petition in Certain Situations
Depending on the circumstances surrounding the case, you may not be eligible to petition for an expungement of your criminal record. You may fail eligibility requirements if:
- You have been convicted of a sexual offense.
- You still owe fines, fees, court costs, or restitution related to the case.
- Your case pertains to a class 1 or class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense, a DUI or DWAI conviction, or a class A or class B traffic infraction.
- You were adjudicated an aggravated or violent juvenile offender.
- You were adjudicated for an offense that would be considered a crime of violence if it was committed by an adult.
- You were charged by the direct filing of an indictment, and you received an adult sentence.
6. Your Criminal Record Will Not “Disappear”
Expungement refers to the “sealing” of court records, a practice that involves hiding or destroying records that would otherwise be publicly accessible. When you petition for an expungement of records, you can expect to have your criminal information removed from files, computers, and other depositories. However, this does not mean that the records simply “disappear.”
While the records cannot be accessed for civil use or general law enforcement, it can be retrieved in exceptional circumstances that typically require a statutory authorization or court order. Those who may be given access to juvenile criminal records include parents and legal guardians, school officials, juveniles’ attorneys, law enforcement agencies, research organizations, and child protective agencies.
No one wants to live with the stigma associated with having a permanent criminal record. Fortunately, eligible offenders can take action to remove the event from public records and put the past behind them. If a criminal record is making your life more difficult, get in contact with a knowledgeable defense attorney to learn more about what you can do in your specific situation.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.