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Sealing Criminal Records in Colorado; Overview and Update

In Colorado, it has usually not been possible to expunge or seal a conviction from your criminal record, even if you have completed probation. however more recently the legislature have added exceptions, for municipal violations, petty offenses, crimes involving controlled substances, and a few other specific offenses. (Colorado Statutes §§ 24-72-704 to 24-72-710 (2019).)

If you were arrested but released without being charged with a crime, or were arrested and charged with a crime but not convicted, you can probably have your records sealed. After sealing, it is as though the arrest or charge never occurred, and you generally don’t have to disclose the information if you are asked about it. (Colorado Statutes §§ 24-72-702, 24-72-702.5, 24-72-703 (2019).)

Up until recently, Coloradans who received a conviction, but later turned their life around, have been ineligible for the relief that a record sealing provided. Those who turned their lives around were told there was nothing that could be done to provide them relief and they remained saddled with the stigma of a criminal conviction.

A new law went into effect on August 2, 2019 that expanded the availability of criminal record sealing for many previously ineligible people in Colorado.

Overview

You may petition to have your criminal record sealed if:

  • You were arrested but not charged with a crime and the statute of limitations has run
  • You were arrested but not charged with a crime and are no longer being investigated for the offense
  • The case against you was dismissed
  • You completed a diversion program, or
  • You were found not guilty of the charges brought against you.

There are some exceptions to this rule. If you were not charged because of a plea agreement in another case or you have failed to meet all the conditions of your sentence, your record won’t be sealed. If your case was dismissed because of a plea agreement in another case, your record cannot be sealed unless you wait ten years after the disposition of your case to apply. You must not have been charged with any other crimes in that ten year period in order to be eligible.

Sealing is not possible for records concerning:

  • Class 1 or 2 misdemeanor traffic offenses
  • Class A or B traffic infractions
  • Convictions for driving under the influence
  • Convictions for offenses based on unlawful sexual behavior, or
  • Convictions involving the holder of a commercial driver’s license or the operator of a commercial motor vehicle.

(Colorado Revised Statutes § 24-72-702 (2019).)

Increased Eligibility For Criminal Record Sealing thanks to HB19-1275

The act, which went into effect in August 2019, allows a defendant to petition for sealing criminal justice records when there is a criminal conviction and without requiring the defendant to file a separate civil action as follows:

  • If the offense is a petty offense or a drug petty offense, the motion may be filed one year after the later of the date of the final disposition of all criminal proceedings against the defendant or the release of the defendant from supervision concerning a criminal conviction. The court seals the records if the defendant has not been convicted of a criminal offense since the later of the above dates.
  • If the offense is a class 2 or 3 misdemeanor or any drug misdemeanor, the motion may be filed 2 years after the later of the date of the final disposition of all criminal proceedings against the defendant or the release of the defendant from supervision concerning a criminal conviction. The district attorney can object to the sealing. If the district attorney does not object and the crime is not a victims’ rights act crime, the court seals the case if the defendant has not been convicted of a criminal offense since the later of the above dates. If the district attorney objects or the victim request a hearing, the court makes the determination after a hearing.
  • If the offense is a class 4, 5, or 6 felony, a level 3 or 4 drug felony, or a class 1 misdemeanor, the motion may be filed 3 years after the later of the date of the final disposition of all criminal proceedings against the defendant or the release of the defendant from supervision concerning a criminal conviction. The district attorney can object to the sealing. If the district attorney does not object and the crime is not a victims’ rights act crime, the court seals the case if the defendant has not been convicted of a criminal offense since the later of the above dates. If the district attorney objects or the victim request a hearing, the court makes the determination after a hearing and considering the district attorney’s position.
  • For all other offenses, the petition may be filed 5 years after the later of the date of the final disposition of all criminal proceedings against the defendant or the release of the defendant from supervision concerning a criminal conviction. The district attorney can object to the sealing. If the district attorney does not object, the court seals the case if the defendant has not been convicted of a criminal offense since the later of the above dates. If the district attorney objects, the court makes the determination after a hearing and considering the district attorney’s position.

If you were convicted of an offense involving a controlled substance and you have satisfied all the conditions of your sentence, you may petition to have your records sealed if:

  • it has been at least ten years since the end of all criminal proceedings against you or your release from supervision concerning a criminal conviction, whichever is later, and
  • you have not been charged with or convicted of a crime during that ten year period.

There are some limitations on the types of controlled substance offenses that may be sealed under this law. Carefully read Colorado Statutes § 24-72-706 (2019) or consult our office.

Expungement of Conviction Records for Petty Offenses or Municipal Violations

If you were convicted of a petty offense or a municipal violation, you may petition to have your record sealed if it has been at least three years since the end of all criminal proceedings against you or your release from supervision concerning a criminal conviction, whichever is later. If the record you wish to seal involves domestic violence, you must not have been charged with or convicted of a felony, misdemeanor, or misdemeanor traffic offense during the three-year waiting period in order to qualify. All other petty offenses or municipal violation conviction records can be sealed even if you have had a conviction during the waiting period, if:

  • the intervening conviction was not for a felony
  • the intervening crime did not involve domestic violence, child abuse, or sexual assault or abuse, and
  • you were not convicted of another felony, misdemeanor, or misdemeanor traffic offense in the ten years before the final disposition of the intervening case or your release from supervision in the intervening case, whichever is later.

Conviction records for misdemeanor traffic offenses committed while you were the holder of a commercial driver’s license or operating a commercial motor vehicle cannot be sealed.

(Colorado Statutes § 24-72-708 (2019).)

Expungement of Conviction Records for Other Offenses

Victims of human trafficking and prostitution crimes. If you were convicted of prostitution, soliciting for prostitution, keeping a place of prostitution, or public indecency as a result of having been a victim of human trafficking, you may petition to have your record sealed. (Colorado Statutes § 24-72-706 (2019).)

Posting a private image for harassment or pecuniary gain offenses. If you were convicted of posting a private image for harassment or pecuniary gain (often referred to as “revenge porn” crimes), you may petition to have the record sealed if you have satisfied all terms of your sentence and have not been convicted of another crime for at least five years after the completion of your sentence. (Colorado Statutes § 24-72-709 (2019).)

Decriminalized marijuana use or possession misdemeanors. If you were convicted of a misdemeanor offense for the use or possession of marijuana that would not have been a crime on or after December 10, 2012, you may petition to have the related record sealed. (Colorado Statutes § 24-72-705 (2019).)

Expungement of DNA Evidence or Other Biological Substance Records in Colorado

If a law enforcement agency collected a biological sample from you while investigating a crime, you can petition to have that evidence expunged in some circumstances. Consider a petition for expungement if:

  • the charges against you were dismissed
  • you were acquitted of the crime, or
  • the charges resulted in a conviction other than a felony.

This law does not apply if you were arrested, charged with, or convicted of a separate offense for which collection of a biological sample was permitted. (Colorado Revised Statutes § 16-23-105 (2019).)

What Qualifies For Juvenile Expungement In Colorado?

Your juvenile record might be eligible for expungement if

  • You were not convicted of a felony or misdemeanor offense;
  • You were not adjudicated for another juvenile offense;
  • There are no criminal or juvenile delinquency proceedings pending against you;
  • You have been rehabilitated; and
  • Expunging the record is in the best interest of you and the community.

Your juvenile record is ineligible for expungement if

  • You were an aggravated or violent juvenile offender;
  • You committed an offense that would be classified as an adult crime of violence;
  • You committed an unlawful sexual offense; or
  • You were charged, as a juvenile, by the direct filing in the district court of an information or indictment, unless you were sentenced as a juvenile in the same matter.

“Expungement” is different than “sealing” in that once records are expunged, they cease to exist even for law enforcement and prosecution. When your case is “sealed” as an adult, the details are inaccessible to the public, but an order sealing arrest or other criminal records does not deny access to the criminal records of a petitioner or defendant by any court, law enforcement agency, criminal justice agency, prosecuting attorney, or party or agency required by law to conduct a criminal history record check on an individual.

For More Information

You can find the official Petition to Seal Arrest & Criminal Records at the Colorado Courts website. But be aware that cleaning up your criminal record can be complicated, and the law can change at any time. To learn more about sealing criminal records in Colorado—and to discuss your personal circumstances—you should contact our firm for a consultation. We have successfully helped hundreds of Coloradans successfully seal or expunge their arrest and criminal history. https://www.m2lawyers.com/contact-us/ or 303-872-0084.