Colorado Springs Expungement Attorneys
Records of past mistakes, arrests, convictions, or other criminally relevant actions do not go away in Colorado. When you apply for college or a job, your past will catch up to you and can significantly impact your future. Your alternative is to request the sealing of your criminal record.
Expunging vs. Sealing of Criminal Record
Expunging your juvenile record involves the removal of a juvenile record. It applies to juvenile offenses.
The sealing of records means that your criminal record will be closed against background checks or other public or civil inquiry. Sealing applies to criminal offenses as opposed to juvenile offenses.
Juvenile vs. Adult Criminal Record
In Colorado, only those with juvenile records may petition to have their records expunged. If you made a mistake when you were a teenager and that mistake is preventing you from getting your life on track, whether it is applying for college or applying for a job, you may be eligible to petition the court to expunge your record. Then, if a college or potential employer conducts a background check, they will find nothing connected to a criminal past.
If you have a criminal record as an adult in Colorado, your only option is to petition the court to seal your criminal record. With a permanently sealed criminal record, you can lawfully state that you have never committed a crime or been arrested, but, to be eligible to have your records sealed, you have to meet certain criteria.
Sealing Misdemeanor or Felony Offense Records in Colorado
Generally, the sealing of criminal records is granted under the following circumstances:
- You were found not guilty;
- You were given a suspended/deferred sentence and complied with all conditions of that order; or
- Your case was dismissed before it went to trial.
If you pled guilty or were found guilty, sealing your case is most likely precluded. But if the above requirements apply to you then you can likely be successful in your petition for the sealing of your records. Of course extenuating circumstances and exceptions may also exist. You should check your deferred sentence agreement closely to ensure that there was no agreement which would preclude sealing. An experienced defense attorney can help you determine whether or not you are eligible to seal your criminal record.
Understanding Sealing of Criminal Records
Many people have some common misconceptions about sealings and expungements. One misconception is people mistakenly use sealing and expungement interchangeably. However, a sealing and an expungement are two distinct proceedings and each have different eligibility requirements. Another misconception is people believe their entire criminal record will be hidden from any background search for criminal records. However, each has a different impact on what appears on criminal background checks.
A sealing is a process that is reserved typically for adults who have had their criminal charges dismissed, see Colorado Revised Statutes §24-72-308. To determine if a case is sealable the court weighs the harm of the privacy of the person petitioning or the dangers of unwarranted adverse consequences to the petitioner versus the public interest in retaining the records. A person can request a record be sealed immediately upon final disposition and no restitution, fines, court costs, late fees, or other fees are due. Also, a charge can be sealed 10 years after final disposition of all criminal proceedings.
Not all cases are sealable. A person's record cannot be sealed if the judge determines there is a public interest in keeping the records searchable or if there was a conviction, meaning the person pled guilty or was found guilty at trial. A person's record also cannot be sealed if there are still costs due, a case was not charged due to a plea agreement in a separate case, or a dismissal occurs as part of a plea agreement in a separate case.
Seal Your Criminal Records
Why you should seek to seal or expunge your Colorado criminal record:
- Having a criminal history accessible to the public can cause you problems getting employment, applying for housing, getting accepted into educational institutions, getting loans, and getting good deals on insurance rates.
- Your criminal record won't automatically go away over time -- unless your charge is expunged or sealed it will remain in the system and continue to cause you problems indefinitely.
- A criminal record can make it difficult for you to get a coaching, teaching, or volunteer position.
- You may have difficulty getting permits to own guns or other weapons.
- You may encounter problems getting public assistance, voting in elections, and getting grants for private work.
- You may not even know that opportunity you are denied due to your criminal background.
Colorado Springs juvenile criminal records can be expunged from the record. Adult criminal records in Colorado cannot be expunged entirely -- but they can be sealed. To meet the minimum qualifications for sealing a record, you must prove:
- That the offense never actually occurred; or
- You were acquitted of charges; or
- The case was otherwise dismissed.
On top of this, you have to prove that the public's retention of your criminal record would cause you significant harm or otherwise endanger your privacy rights -- and that these harms and dangers would outweigh the benefit of having your criminal record available to public.
Sealing Records and Drug Offenses
One area of law that has seen many changes regarding someone's right to seal are drug offenses. The Colorado Legislature allows certain drug offenses that occurred after July 1, 2011 to be sealed. For instance class 2 and 3 misdemeanor drug offenders to petition to seal 3 years after disposition of all proceedings and class 1 misdemeanor drug offenders can petition to seal 5 years after final disposition of all proceedings. Class 5 and class 6 felony drug possession offenses can file a petition to seal 7 years after final disposition of their records. All other drug offenses not listed must wait 10 years before filing a petition to seal or anyone who received a drug conviction that occurred between July 1, 2008 and July 1, 2011 must also wait 10 years before filing a petition to seal. Any drug conviction that was entered prior to July 1, 2008 can be sealed if the prosecuting attorney does not object to the sealing and the defendant pays certain fees to the court and prosecuting attorney's office.
After Records are Sealed in Colorado
Once someone's records are sealed, the public cannot view the criminal record. However, certain categories of officials will be able to view the person's record in criminal background checks. Remember it is always difficult to retrieve electronic data once it has been dismissed, even if the case is later sealed.
An expungement has several differences from a sealing but one major difference is an expungement applies to juvenile cases. expungement of a juvenile record means the juvenile delinquency records are deemed never to have existed, see Colorado Revised Statutes §19-1-306.
A juvenile's record can be expunged when there is a finding of not guilty at a trial, dismissal of the petition in its entirety as a result of non-prosecution of the offense, or successful completion of a juvenile diversion program, a deferred adjudication, or an informal adjustment. Once the expungement has been granted the records that have been designed as expunged may only be inspected by order of the court after a hearing and good cause shown.
A juvenile's record may not be expunged if the juvenile has been convicted or adjudicated an aggravated juvenile offender, a violent juvenile offender, has been charged by the filing of an information in district court or by indictment for a class 1 or 2 felony or a sexual assault that is a crime of violence, an offense involving unlawful sexual behavior, or any person who has failed to pay court-ordered restitution to a victim of the offense that is the basis for the juvenile record.
Time is of the Essence
Requests for the sealing or expunging of criminal records in Colorado can take months to make it through the court system, which is why you should not hesitate in speaking with an attorney and having them prepare the petition for you. If you are an adult, or the parent of a juvenile with a record, experienced criminal defense attorney, Timothy Bussey, of The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., can help you determine whether you are eligible to have those records sealed or expunged as well as petition the court on your behalf. To speak to Mr. Bussey about your particular circumstances, contact us at (719) 475-2555 for a free consultation of your legal rights and options.