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Whether you are convicted, charged, or even just arrested, you will get a criminal record. This criminal record will follow you wherever you go, making it difficult to get a job, rent an apartment, or do anything that requires a background check.
The good news is that some criminal records may be “sealed” or “expunged” in Colorado. Both of these processes essentially “hide” your record from anyone looking into your background. It also means that you are not required to disclose the fact that you have a record.
However, it is important to note that not all criminal records are subject to being sealed. A knowledgeable Colorado criminal record sealing attorney will not only be able to tell you if you are eligible but also help with a variety of other potentially problematic issues.
Before we dive into the benefits of working with a lawyer, though, a bit more on record sealing in our state.
Sealing a record is probably closest to the general description above. When you seal a record, it still technically exists, but it will only be accessible if someone is able to get a court order. That means it won’t show up in background checks or public searches, and you are legally allowed to say you don’t have a record.
Expungement goes even further. When you have a record expunged, it is literally destroyed so that no one will ever be able to see it again. Why doesn’t everyone just get their records expunged? Because Colorado law limits expungement to juvenile offenses.
Still, having your record sealed effectively “destroys it” for all intents and purposes outside of legal proceedings – usually criminal proceedings. Because of this, it is highly advisable for you to get your record sealed if you are able to do so.
That’s where working with a knowledgeable Denver criminal attorney comes in.
Technically, it is possible to seal your record without the assistance of an attorney. The forms are all publicly available, and in general, the information is out there on how to do it.
There are even certain situations where your record will be sealed automatically, such as in the case of mistaken identity. Quite simply, if you were arrested on the basis of mistaken identity, the courts in Colorado are required to seal the record. The police department that arrested you must petition the Court that the record be sealed.
Most situations, however, are not like that. You will have to go through the record sealing process yourself, which can be tedious and confusing. Here’s how an experienced lawyer can help:
Not everyone can have their record sealed.
In the case where a person is arrested but never charged with a crime, Colorado law allows for that person’s criminal record to be sealed. This can happen when the person:
It is important to note that there are exceptions to these rules. For example, if you plead guilty to another crime and as part of that plea you are not charged with a crime that you had been arrested for, then that crime is not subject to be sealed.
Head spinning yet? There’s more.
If you have been arrested and charged, but not convicted, you are also allowed to petition the court to seal your record. This includes both receiving a not guilty verdict or if charges were dismissed for any reason.
Again, though, there are exceptions. When you plead guilty to a crime and other charges are dismissed, those dismissed charges may be sealed, but not until at least 10 years after the disposition of your case.
Even after being convicted of certain crimes, you can petition Colorado Courts to seal your record. However, there is a small list of these crimes for which sealing is possible, and before you can have these records sealed, you must have completed all requirements of your sentence – including the payment of any fines and costs.
Beyond merely understanding all of the nuances of record sealing in Colorado is the process itself. The correct forms must be filled out – without mistakes. They have to be turned in on time. You need to make sure they’re actually going to the right offices.
Individually, these may seem like small things, but when you put them all together you can see that they truly are a job in and of themselves. They take time and organization and planning, and most likely you’ve already got a job – and other responsibilities.
When you hire an attorney to handle your case, that is their job. This means that they will take it seriously and make it their priority. Moreover, because they have handled record sealing cases before, they will be faster and more efficient at it than you, and less likely to make costly errors.
Anyone can read up on the rules and regulations surrounding record sealing and learn the process. This is only half the battle, though. Remember, “eligible” does not mean “guaranteed.” The State can refuse to seal your record.
Because of this, your job in completing all the processes involved in record sealing isn’t just to dot all the “i’s” and cross all the “t’s.” You must convince the people who make the decision that you deserve to have your record expunged.
A Denver criminal lawyer who has successfully gotten records sealed for other clients knows how to do this, and they will bring all of their skill and experience to bear for you.
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.