Expungement and record sealing are methods of erasing the evidence of a criminal arrest or conviction from your record. After your record has been expunged or sealed, you can usually truthfully state that your conviction or arrest never happened. Colorado uses both methods, but only for certain cases.
How Are Expungement and Sealing Different?
Expungement destroys all records relating to a crime. The records cease to exist, and there is no way for anyone to prove that they were ever there. Sealing prevents most access to the records, but they still exist. Generally, only law enforcement and criminal justice agencies can see sealed files. Sometimes sealed records may be unsealed for good cause. Colorado only allows expungement for juvenile records. Adults arrested or convicted of certain crimes may request that their records be sealed, but not expunged.
Are You Eligible For Expungement?
Most juvenile records are eligible for expungement, but you must meet certain requirements:
You cannot expunge aggravated or violent juvenile offenses.
You may only have adult records sealed if you were not convicted. Examples include charges that were dismissed, or cases where charges were never filed. If the case was dismissed as part of a plea agreement, you must wait 10 years before the records can be sealed. You can request that certain controlled substance convictions be sealed after 10 years. Some records cannot be sealed, such as those related to driving under the influence.
What Information Will You Need?
To make sure all relevant files are sealed, you will need to know the arrest, case and report numbers related to your matter. If your case was dismissed because you made a plea agreement in a different case, you will also need that case number. If you do not have these numbers, you can contact the police department responsible for arresting you, or the county, district or municipal court that handled your case.
What Is the Record Sealing Process?
After you have gathered the relevant information, you must file several forms with the court where your arrest occurred. These forms are available on the Colorado State Judicial Branch website.
A Petition to Seal Arrest and Criminal Records lists the case numbers and charges. A notary or court clerk must witness your signature on this form.
The Order Denying Petition to Seal Arrest and Criminal Records is for court use. The court issues this form if it decides to deny your request, but you must fill out the top portion when you file your paperwork.
The Order to Seal Arrest and Criminal Records is also for court use. You must fill in the relevant information for the court, however, including the same case numbers you cited in the Petition.
The Order and Notice of Hearing is sent to each agency involved in your case, notifying them that a hearing has been scheduled to decide your request. Some courts may require you to send out this notice.
Anyone requesting expungement of juvenile records or convictions for drug offenses will fill out similar forms.
Be prepared to answer questions at your hearing. If the judge grants your request, you must send copies of the signed order to each agency involved. An agency that does not receive the order might not seal its records.
How Can a Lawyer Help?
Although expungement and sealing may seem simple at first glance, there are a lot of variables to consider. An experienced criminal lawyer can help you figure out if you are eligible and can request sealing on your behalf.