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As we all know, a criminal history can hurt even the brightest of futures. Just think about the high school football star with a scholarship to college who tries drugs at a party one night and gets caught somehow. Should a one-time juvenile offense shatter such a person’s entire life? We all know that a criminal background, even if minor, can kill a person’s chances to land a good job and can follow them around for the rest of their lives. For these reasons, Colorado has enacted laws to assist juveniles and adults charged with relatively minor offenses to “wipe the slate clean,” so-to-speak, by expunging or sealing their criminal histories.
Historically, most criminal convictions (especially many drug possession convictions) could not be expunged or sealed even after completion of your sentence. However, in May of 2019, the Colorado General Assembly passed Bill HB19-1275. This bill expanded the number and types of charges that can be sealed, and greatly simplified the process for doing so. The end result is that far more people can successfully seal or expunge their criminal records today than they could ever do before. But the laws that dictate which records are eligible for sealing or expungement are quite specific. So if you wish to expunge or seal your record, you need to speak with a qualified Colorado expungement lawyer who can assess the specifics of your case and guide you accordingly. But let’s look at some basics of the law to help with your understanding.
Expungement vs. Sealing
First, how does expungement differ from sealing records? The answer is that expungement is more akin to destroying the records completely, making it as if the case never existed. Conversely, sealing records keeps the records alive but limits the access to only prosecutors and other government agencies – and only under rare circumstances. In other words, having your record sealed means that the record still exists, but will not show up in most public records and background checks.
With the exception of arrests for mistaken identity, Colorado reserves expungement for juvenile cases only. Juvenile cases are charges that happen before a person turns 18, although that can be stretched for purposes of expungement to the age of 21 if the charge is for underage drinking and driving.
Unlike sealing, a juvenile can often expunge their record even if their case resulted in an adjudication (which is the juvenile equivalent of a conviction). There are rules that specify exactly which juvenile offenses can be expunged and which cannot, but generally speaking, as long as your charge was not violent or sexual in nature, you may be able to expunge your juvenile criminal record.
Adults in Colorado cannot get their records expunged, however, they can seek to get them sealed. The benefit is that sealed records are not available for public viewing, so they will not turn up in background checks for jobs, etc. The Act (HB-1275) passed in 2019 allows for sealing a criminal case without the need for a separate civil action when:
- The defendant is acquitted of all charges;
- The defendant completes a diversion agreement; or
- The defendant completes a sentence after a deferred judgment and all counts are dismissed.
The Act also allows for the defendant to file for the sealing of a criminal conviction without requiring a separate civil action when:
- The offense is a petty offense or petty drug offense;
- The offense is a misdemeanor drug or class 2 or 3 misdemeanor; or
- The offense is a class 4, 5, or 6 felony; a level 3 or 4 drug felony; or a class 1 misdemeanor.
For other offenses, the defendant may actively file a petition to seal their criminal record, but there are rules that apply. The defendant must wait until 5 years have passed after either their release from supervision or the final disposition of all criminal proceedings against them. Also, if your charge was a class 1, 2, or 3 felony or a level 1or 2 drug felony, you are not eligible to have your records sealed. Seek help from a knowledgeable Colorado criminal record sealing lawyer today.
Helping You Get a Fresh Start
If you have been acquitted of charges, completed a diversion program, incurred a juvenile offense, or convicted of a lesser felony or misdemeanor and served your time, you deserve a second chance. One mistake should not limit your opportunities in life forever. Let Mark S. Rubinstein, an experienced Colorado criminal record sealing attorney, get your records sealed or expunged so that your past does not continue to negatively impact your future. Call me directly at our office or use our online contact form to get in touch with me. I look forward to helping you today!