Sealing Records (“Expunging” records)
I also can assist you in petitioning to have your Colorado court and arrest records sealed, when possible under the law. This is the Colorado equivalent of what is sometimes referred to as expungement of records. Under current Colorado law, criminal records (for adult defendants) can generally (but see next paragraph) only be sealed: (1) if the charges never get filed in court; (2) if an entire criminal court case (all charges or “counts”) is dismissed, either by the DA without a trial or after a finding of not guilty to all counts by a judge or jury; or (3) if the defendant received and successfully completed a deferred sentence on one or more counts, and all other counts in that case had been dismissed when that deferred sentence was imposed.
Special sealing rules for drug convictions
It is also now possible to petition to seal certain drug-related convictions, even if they were not deferred sentence “convictions” or not otherwise dismissed. The scope of this provision was expanded in 2011 to include even drug distribution or sale convictions. BUT SEALING OF FELONY DRUG CONVICTIONS THAT HAD NOT BEEN DISMISSED DOES NOT “VACATE” OR SET ASIDE THE CONVICTION, SO DOES NOT RESTORE CIVIL RIGHTS, LIKE THE RIGHT TO POSSESS FIREARMS/WEAPONS. Sealing of these cases is still worthwhile, especially for employment and housing rental purposes.
Miscellaneous sealing matters
Petty-offense level convictions can also be sealed, as can prostitution-related offenses where the Defendant was forced into prostitution.
There are special restrictions that apply to sealing multiple criminal cases that were all resolved by a plea agreement at one time, and there are some types of cases that cannot be sealed. Municipal (city) court criminal cases, MIP (minor in possession/use of alcohol) cases, under-21 low-alcohol DUI cases, and juvenile court cases also present different issues for sealing.
Sealing is not always automatic just because a case qualifies to be sealed. Some sealing is discretionary with the Judge hearing the petition to seal. The DA frequently objects to petitions to seal. It is important to present the best case possible in the petition to seal, and that is where an attorney’s help can make the difference. If the Court denies a petition to seal, you can try again after 12 months or more, but that requires starting over again and paying a new filing fee. So it is wise to present the best sealing effort you can, the first time you try.
And keep in mind the importance of correcting arrest records (see above), even when a case cannot be sealed. And it is best to correct arrest records before petitioning to seal a case.
It can be helpful, in situations where record sealing is not possible, to have a letter of explanation and clarification of the results of a criminal charge by an attorney. This can facilitate conversations with employers, government offices, or other interested parties, especially those who are not familiar with Colorado laws.