December 1, 2022
One of the most severe consequences of a run-in with the law follows you long after your sentence is complete: living with a criminal record.
A criminal record is not only embarrassing, but also compromises many aspects of your life, including employment, higher education and even housing applications. In many ways, a criminal record encourages former offenders to turn to crime just to make a living.
Fortunately, it may be possible to have your criminal record sealed or expunged. While, the process is often complicated and in-depth, educating yourself first can help.
For Coloradans seeking out criminal record sealing, we’ve put together this guide covering frequently asked questions about expungement in this state.
General Record Sealing and Expunction FAQs for Coloradans
Q: What is the difference between record sealing and expungement?
A: Adult criminal records are sealed from public view. Juvenile criminal records are destroyed, which is known as expunction. However, these two processes are the same in practice, as no sealed record can be accessed without a court order. Therefore, you’ll often see these terms used interchangeably.
Q: How long does this process take?
A: This depends on the specifics of your case, but you can generally expect the process to take 3-6 months.
Expungement in Colorado If You Were Not Convicted
Q: I was arrested but never charged. Do I have a criminal record, and if so how can I get rid of it?
A: Yes, your arrest records are publicly available, and will show up on a background check. You can immediately petition to have your record sealed if:
- You were arrested but not charged, and the crime is no longer under investigation, or
- You were arrested but not charged, and the statute of limitations for the crime has run out
Q: What if charges were pressed, but I was not convicted?
A: Your arrest and court records are publicly available, and will show up on a background check. However, you are immediately eligible to apply for record sealing if:
- Your case was dismissed without acceptance of a plea bargain for another charge.
- You were acquitted in court.
- You completed a diversion program.
Expungement in Colorado If You Were Convicted
If you were convicted of the charges against you, things get trickier. However, most drug crimes and some petty offenses are eligible for record sealing after a certain amount of time.
Q: What offenses are not eligible for record sealing?
A: Class 1 or 2 misdemeanor traffic offenses, class A or B traffic infractions, unlawful sexual behavior, and convictions involving the operator of a commercial vehicle are ineligible for record sealing.
Q: What if I was convicted of a drug crime?
For offenses committed after this date, you are eligible within 1-10 years of the disposition of your case, depending on the level of offense.
Q: What about petty (or non-felony) offenses and municipal violations?
A: Non-felony petty offenses are eligible for sealing if three or more years have elapsed after the disposition of your case with no further criminal activity. Exceptions for this include domestic violence, child abuse and sex crimes.
Q: Can DNA evidence be expunged?
A: If law enforcement collected a biological sample from you during the course of an investigation, you can file a petition for expunction of DNA records under the following circumstances:
- The charges were dismissed
- You were acquitted
- The charges resulted in a misdemeanor conviction
If you have a criminal record, applying for record sealing could change your life. If you think that you could be eligible, or have questions about your personal criminal history, speak to an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney to learn more about your options.
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.