Having a criminal record can present major obstacles when it comes to finding a job, renting an apartment, or applying for loans. Thankfully, Colorado law allows people to expunge certain criminal offenses from their records through a legal process called expungement.
An expungement does not simply seal your criminal record from public view like a record sealing does. Rather, an expungement allows you to lawfully deny that the offense ever happened in the first place. However, expungement is only available for specific types of crimes and offenses.
Expungement vs. Record Sealing in Colorado
An expungement is the process of having a criminal record sealed or destroyed. When a record is expunged in Colorado, it is deemed never to have existed in the eyes of the law.
There are important differences between an expungement and a record seal:
- Expungement – The record is physically destroyed and deemed to have never existed. Expunged records do not appear on background checks.
- Record Seal – The record is hidden from public view and considered confidential but still exists. Sealed records can be reopened with a court order.
Which Criminal Records Can Be Expunged in Colorado?
In Colorado, the only types of criminal records that are eligible for expungement are:
- Juvenile Records – Most juvenile records can be expunged one year after the case is closed, with certain exceptions.
- Underage Drinking and Driving (UDD) – UDD records can be expunged once the defendant turns 21.
- Arrest Records – If police arrested the wrong person due to mistaken identity, those records can be expunged if no charges were filed.
Records related to the following types of convictions are not eligible for expungement in Colorado:
- Violent crimes
- Sex offenses
- Traffic offenses
- Most drug felonies
However, records related to these types of convictions may still be eligible for sealing.
Eligibility Requirements for Expungement
In order to have a criminal record expunged in Colorado, the petitioner must meet certain eligibility requirements:
For Juvenile Records
- At least 1 year has passed since unconditional release from parole supervision or sentence completion.
- The juvenile was not adjudicated as a violent or aggravated offender
- The offense was not a traffic violation or infraction
For UDD Records
- The defendant is at least 21 years old
For Mistaken Identity Arrests
- The arrestee was wrongfully arrested due to mistaken identity
- No charges were filed related to the arrest
Petitioners with certain felony convictions or who do not meet the eligibility criteria above may still be able to seal (but not expunge) their criminal records in Colorado.
The Expungement Process in Colorado
Expunging a criminal record in Colorado involves submitting petitions and court orders to the appropriate court. Here is an overview of the step-by-step process:
1. Obtain the Proper Forms
The forms required to expunge a criminal record in Colorado include:
- Petition for Expungement – Provides details on your eligibility to have your record expunged.
- Order for Expungement – The court’s order granting or denying your expungement petition.
Links to download the forms for expunging different types of criminal records in Colorado can be found on the judicial branch website. Forms should be filled out completely and accurately.
2. File the Petition
Once completed, the Petition for Expungement and proposed Order for Expungement are filed with the court that heard the original case. There is no fee to file an expungement petition in Colorado.
Juvenile expungement petitions can be filed one year after the case is closed. For UDD expungements, petitions can be filed after turning 21.
For mistaken identity arrests, the arresting agency has 90 days to file the petition after determining the error.
3. Attend the Hearing
In some cases, the court may schedule a hearing to gather more information before deciding on the petition. Petitioners can choose to have a criminal defense attorney represent them at expungement hearings in Colorado.
4. Serve the Order
If approved, the court will send copies of the Order for Expungement to all agencies that possess records related to the case. This includes law enforcement, corrections departments, and the Office of the State Court Administrator.
5. Verify Record Expunged
Once sufficient time has passed for all records to be destroyed, petitioners can verify that the expungement was carried out successfully by running a background check.
If the record still appears, the petitioner will need to follow up with the expungement order and confirm each agency has complied.
Finding Legal Help for Expungement
Trying to navigate the expungement process on your own can be challenging. An experienced Colorado expungement lawyer can handle all communications with the courts and law enforcement agencies to ensure the process goes smoothly.
The Colorado Springs criminal defense attorneys at Right Law Group have successfully guided numerous clients through expunging and sealing their criminal records. They understand this process and will craft a strategic approach to clearing your record based on the unique circumstances of your case.
Don’t let a prior conviction continue holding you back. Contact their team today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about clearing your criminal record through expungement or record sealing.