A criminal record can follow you for the rest of your life, making it difficult to get a job, rent a house, or even get financial aid for college. If you cannot erase your record, you can seal it to remove it from public view. Sealing records in Colorado is a multi-step process that is best completed with the help of a criminal defense lawyer.
What is Record Sealing?
When someone is arrested or convicted in Colorado, it gets added to their criminal record. Criminal records are public. Therefore, they can be accessed through a background check. Record sealing—sometimes wrongly called expungement—removes those records from public view. A sealed record will not appear if an employer runs a background check.
“Following decades of mass incarceration and overcriminalization, as many as 1 in 3 Americans now has some type of criminal record, which can create lifelong obstacles to nearly every pillar of economic security—employment, housing, education, and more,” says Neera Tanden, CEO and president of the Center for American Progress. Record sealing gives Coloradans a clean slate, allowing them to secure work, housing, and education to better their futures.
What is the Difference Between Expungement and Sealing Records in Colorado?
Sealing a record makes it invisible to the public, but law enforcement still has access. Expungement is the actual destruction of criminal records. In Colorado, expungement only applies to an underage drinking and driving conviction or a juvenile criminal offense. Record sealing is the only option for most people to keep their criminal records from public view.
Eligibility for Sealing Records in Colorado
In August 2019, Colorado passed HB19-1275, which increases the eligibility of criminal record sealing. Many Coloradans who were previously ineligible for sealing can now go through the process of getting record sealing relief. The law aims to help more Coloradans return to the workforce without the stigma of having a record.
Before HB19-1275, under Colorado law, most Coloradans convicted of crimes and turned their lives around were ineligible to have their criminal records sealed.
Some criminal conviction records are still ineligible for sealing, including:
- Offenses harmful to public safety
- Violent traffic offenses
- Offenses involving unlawful sexual behavior
Records Eligible for Sealing in Colorado
Under Colorado Revised Statute C.R.S. Title 24, Art. 72, Pt. 7, you might be eligible to immediately seal records related to:
- Arrests that do not result in criminal charges
- Cases that are dismissed
- Acquittals, meaning the defendant was found not guilty of the charge(s) after trial
- Cases in which the defendant completes a diversion agreement
- Cases in which the defendant completes a deferred judgment and sentence and all counts are dismissed.
- Criminal offenses that have received a full and unconditional pardon
Records Not Eligible for Sealing
Certain types of records are not eligible for sealing, including:
- Class 1, 2, and 3 felonies
- Sex crimes
- Level 1 drug felony offense
- Class 1 and 2 misdemeanor traffic offenses
- Class A and B traffic infractions
- Domestic violence convictions (although even these records can possibly be sealed under a more rigorous process which involves either DA consent or a court finding by clear and convincing evidence that the need to seal is significant and substantial)
- Crimes that involve a commercial driver’s license
|Conviction Level||Costs or ® Owed||VRA||DV||Agg3||Extr. Rsk||COV||ID Theft||Child Abuse||SVU Per 18-3-400||SVU Per 16-22-102 (9)||Everything Else4||When?5||Hearing?6||DA Input at Hearing?|
|F4||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||YES||3 YEARS||UPON OBJ.||YES|
|F5||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||YES||3 YEARS||UPON OBJ.||YES|
|F6||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||YES||3 YEARS||UPON OBJ.||YES|
|M1||NO8||YES||NO8||N/A||YES||N/A||N/A||NO8||NO8||NO8||YES||3 YEARS||UPON OBJ.||YES|
|M2||NO8||YES||NO8||N/A||YES||N/A||N/A||NO8||NO8||NO8||YES||2 YEARS||UPON OBJ.||OPT.|
|M3||NO8||YES||NO8||N/A||YES||N/A||N/A||NO8||NO8||NO8||YES||2 YEARS||UPON OBJ.||OPT.|
|DF3||NO||NO||NO||YES||YES||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||YES||3 YEARS||UPON OBJ.||YES|
|DF4||NO||NO||NO||YES||YES||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||YES||3 YEARS||UPON OBJ.||YES|
|DM1||NO8||YES||NO8||N/A||YES||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||YES||2 YEARS||UPON OBJ.||OPT.|
|DM2||NO8||YES||NO8||N/A||YES||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||YES||2 YEARS||UPON OBJ.||OPT.|
|No Conviction11||YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||NO if via d/s||YES||ANYTIME||NO12||N/A|
- For effects of sealing see CRS 24-72-703(2). Sealing waivers entered before 8/2/2019 are valid because the statute does not say that the new prohibition applies retroactively.
- If convicted of more than one offense, case can only be sealed if every conviction is eligible to be sealed, per 24-72-703(12)(a)(I).
- This column refers to aggravators per 18-1.3-401(8). This does not include sentence enhancements per 18-1.3-401(9) or aggravating/enhancing circumstances for drug felonies per 18-1.3-401.5.
- Other less common convictions that are ineligible to be sealed: pregnant victim per 18-1.3-401(13), special offender per 18-18-407, cruelty to animals per 18-9-202, abortion per 18-6-100, unlawful termination of pregnancy per 18-3.5-103, pandering per 18-7-203, and deferred sentences for CDL holders per 42-2-402.
- Times listed begin running after final disposition or release from supervision, whichever is later.
- At the hearing, the court must determine if the harm to the defendant’s privacy or the dangers of unwarranted adverse consequences to the defendant outweigh the public interest in retaining public access to the conviction record. See 24-72-706(1)(g) for the factors that the court must consider. Ineligible cases should be denied without a hearing per 24-72-706(1)(d).
- No convictions for F1, F2, F3, or DF1 offenses may be sealed, per 24-72-706(2)(a)(VI)(J).
- Ineligible misdemeanor offenses can still be eligible if: (1) DDA consents to sealing, or (2) court finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that defendant’s need to seal is significant and substantial, the passage of time is such that defendant is no longer a threat to public safety, and public disclosure is no longer necessary to protect or inform the public.
- MIP cases have their own sealing procedure in 18-13-122(13).
- Traffic convictions (MTO/TI) and DUI/DWAI convictions cannot be sealed, per 24-72-705(2)(a), but see note 8 above.
- If dismissed (or not charged) due to a plea in a separate case, dismissed case is eligible to be sealed at the same time as the case with the plea, per CRS 24-72-703(12)(a)(II). If no charges were ever filed, see 24-72-704 for sealing procedure. If the only charges were MTO or TI, the case cannot be sealed per 24-72-703(12)(c).
- All that needs to be shown is that the case was completely dismissed or that there was an acquittal on all counts, but the court shall allow up to 42 days for DDA to notice any VRA victims. MISC: for arrests in cases of mistaken identity see CRS 24-72-702. For offenses committed by victims of human trafficking see 24-72-707. For municipal convictions see 24-72-708.
Waiting Period for Sealing Criminal Records in Colorado
Many convictions can be sealed, but there is a waiting period. The court needs to see that you have turned your life around.
Suppose you are convicted of another crime before the waiting period is up. In that case, you will be ineligible for record sealing until you have resolved the new case and completed a second waiting period. This waiting period does not start until after you have successfully completed the court process and the subsequent punishment such as probation.
Here’s what those waiting periods would look like in Colorado:
- A petty offense or a petty drug offense (if the defendant has not been convicted of a crime). The petition to seal may be filed one year after the final deposition of criminal proceedings or the defendant’s release.
- Misdemeanor drug offenses or Class 2 or 3 misdemeanors. The petition may be filed two years after the final deposition of criminal proceedings or the defendant’s release.
- Class 1 misdemeanor, Level 3 or 4 drug felonies, or Class 4, 5, or 6 felonies. The petition may be filed three years after the final deposition of criminal proceedings or the defendant’s release.
- For other offenses, a petition to seal may be filed five years after the final deposition of criminal proceedings or the defendant’s release.
Keep in mind that the district attorney can object to sealing records regarding certain offenses. In this case, the court will hold a hearing to determine whether the record should be sealed.
The Process of Sealing Records in Colorado
HB19-1275 makes more Coloradans eligible for record sealing, but the process isn’t automatic.
To seal arrest records, you must go through several complex steps that can take several months to complete:
- Gathering your arrest and criminal records and a verified copy of your record
- Filling out and submitting the appropriate documents
- Filing your case with the court
- Waiting for the court to determine whether a hearing will be necessary
- Notify relevant parties via certified mail
Our attorneys are here to help. We understand the petition process in Colorado and the potential obstacles that you may face along the way. The sooner you start the record sealing process, the sooner you can move on with a clean slate.