In the age of the internet, your private affairs and information are more public than ever. And it’s only getting worse. Particularly bothersome is the public’s ability to locate and retrieve criminal records. If you have applied for school, a job, or even a volunteer position recently, you certainly know that businesses can and do run criminal background checks.
The availability of criminal records increasingly creates barriers to people obtaining employment, an education, or renting a home. To rectify this situation, many states have begun to reexamine the process of sealing criminal records. Colorado recently revamped its laws regarding sealing records. In doing so, Colorado expanded the types of arrest records, criminal records, and conviction records capable of being sealed from public view. It also shortened many of the waiting periods before you can seal a record. Colorado’s new sealing laws may give you the opportunity to seal your criminal records from public view.
What Is Sealing of Records?
Criminal records can include conviction records, arrest records, police reports, and other case file information. Because such records are open to the public, background checks often reveal this information to a requesting party. Sealing your records effectively shields people or businesses from being able to see or retrieve such records. As a result, a potential employer would not be able to identify a past criminal history if it performed a background check.
Sealing criminal records is becoming easier for more people. Sealing your records means that your case, and all aspects of your case, including arrest records, will no longer be accessible to the public. However, courts and law enforcement agencies can still see your history.
Whether you become eligible to seal your records depends upon when your case was dismissed or closed, the type of case, and the disposition of your case. Depending on how your case was resolved, you may have to wait up to five years before your case becomes eligible to seal.
Once there is an Order to Seal your case, when questioned about your criminal history, you may state “that public criminal records do not exist.” This means you can say “no” to inquiries about your criminal history; however, you should be mindful of how the question is asked and who is asking. Criminal records will still be available for some agencies, such as law enforcement, government bodies such as the military, and professional schools such as law schools, to name a few.
How Do I Seal My Records?
Before you begin the process to seal your records, you will need to know all the details of your case. Where (in what court) was your case filed? What is your case number? What are the exact charges against you? What was the outcome of your case? When was your case dismissed or closed? Why is it important to you to have your records sealed? Knowing the answers to these basic questions helps the process get off to a smoother start.
In order to seal your records, you have to file a Motion or Petition to Seal your records and other relevant forms to the court, provide a current criminal history report, and pay the appropriate filing fee. Having copies of all your court documents helps you build your case and makes filing your Motion to Seal simpler.
Cases where charges were dismissed
If your case has been dismissed, you may be eligible to have your records sealed. Additionally, cases where an investigation occurred, but no charges were filed may be eligible to seal.
Cases of convictions
Many misdemeanor cases and some felony cases where a conviction occurred are potentially eligible for sealing. An Order to Seal your records does not mean the conviction goes away, it merely means that the public no longer has access to view your records.
Types of cases
Several factors come into play when determining whether your criminal records can be sealed. These factors include the type of case, whether you have current or pending charges, and how long ago the case was closed. Types of cases that may be eligible for sealing include:
Some cases are not eligible for sealing. Factors that might exclude someone from sealing their records include crimes of violence, sex crimes, child abuse, special offenders, domestic violence, identity theft, some felony cases, traffic violations, crimes involving commercial driver’s licenses, if you owe fees, fines, or restitution in a past case, or if you have current charges/cases pending.
Sealing your records can be a step forward in achieving your goals and preventing a past mistake from holding you back. It’s important that you have good legal representation when trying to seal your past records. Call The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., to learn more about sealing records and to see if your case qualifies for sealing.