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Thanks to the internet, it’s now easier than ever to access a criminal record. With a quick search online, a potential employer, landlord, or romantic interest can instantly uncover all the details of any criminal activity in your past, including convictions, charges, and arrests. Upon discovering this information, someone might decide to deny you a job, refuse to rent property to you, decline your request for a loan, or keep you from being accepted into a college.
It doesn’t matter if you were charged with a crime 10 days ago or 10 years ago—an arrest, charge, or conviction on your record can interfere with your life in a big way. A criminal history can follow you for the rest of your life, affecting your future career, living situation, education, and relationships.
Many individuals mistakenly believe that they have a clean criminal history because their case was never filed, their case was dismissed, or they were acquitted. The truth is, the details of an arrest or charge can remain on your record for the rest of your life, even if you were never convicted of a crime.
The good news? In Colorado, you can seal and expunge your record under certain situations. When your record is sealed or expunged, the general public—including employers, landlords, and college admission staff—won’t be able to access your criminal records. You can seal and expunge all records relating to your case, including arrest records, police contact records, and any court cases related to the charge.
If you are an adult, you can have your record sealed if your case was dismissed or the charges were never filed. Typically, only certain law enforcement agencies and criminal justice authorities can access sealed files. Information regarding a sealed record cannot legally be divulged to the public. If a record has been sealed, you can legally deny that the crime in question ever happened to most individuals. However, certain crimes, including driving under the influence, are not eligible for sealing.
While sealing prevents access to a criminal file, expungement goes ones step further and destroys the record entirely. If your record is expunged, it will disappear completely, and there will be no way to prove it ever existed. In Colorado, adults are ineligible for expungement. Only juvenile records may be expunged if you meet certain criteria.
Regardless of whether you are able to have your record sealed or expunged, doing so will allow you to put your past behind you and move forward with your life. With a sealed or expunged record, you’ll have a much better chance of landing a job, apartment, or loan. You’ll be spared the embarrassment of having your friends, family, and romantic interests finding out about your criminal history.
In Colorado, specific types of cases are eligible for sealing, including:
Petty offense convictions. You may be eligible to have your record sealed or expunged if you were convicted of a petty offence, such as a petty drug or municipal offence.
Dismissals or deferred judgment. You may be able to have your record sealed if you were arrested for a crime if the charges were never filed, if the charges were dismissed, or if you were found not guilty in trial.
However, certain types of cases are always ineligible for sealing, including criminal offenses, sex offenses, and many types of traffic offenses and infractions.
Your record may be eligible to be expunged in Colorado if you meet the following criteria:
It is a juvenile record. Adult records are ineligible for expungement.
You were acquitted of the charge. A juvenile may petition to have their record expunged if they were found not guilty by the court.
You complete an assigned juvenile diversion program. You must complete a juvenile diversion program within one year of the arrest or ticket.
You keep out of future legal trouble. In order to qualify for expungement, you cannot be arrested or charged for further crimes.
Both the sealing and expungement processes can be lengthy, complex, and somewhat daunting. You’ll need to gather important information—including arrest, case, and report numbers—and file several forms with the court in the area where your arrest occurred. In some cases, you may be required to appear at a hearing. It is of the utmost importance to fill out paper work carefully and follow procedures properly, or your petition can be denied for being handled incorrectly.
You can significantly improve your chances for a successful petition by hiring a lawyer with experience in Colorado record sealing and expungement. An expert attorney can help you determine the eligibility of your case, and counsel you through the complex, often tricky process. If you are required to appear in court, a lawyer can appear on your behalf, working to protect your rights and ensure the best possible outcome for your case.
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.