If you’re applying for a job, housing, or college and you have a criminal record, you may be concerned about how your record will impact your chances. You’re wise to worry. Employers often toss applicants with criminal records first. Landlords don’t want to rent to them. Banks hesitate to offer loans. And college admissions offices will see this as a black mark on your qualifications – at best.
You’d like a fresh start. But how do you get one? Unfortunately, Colorado law makes it difficult for many past offenders to leave their mistakes behind. However, in some cases, it is possible to seal or expunge your criminal record from the public eye.
The first step toward a clean record is to determine whether your encounter with the law is eligible to be expunged or sealed.
In Colorado, expungement refers to having records of your crime destroyed entirely. This option is only available for crimes committed by minors. In other words, only juvenile courtrecords can be expunged.
Sealing your record is different, and more people are eligible. Doing this will remove your record from the public eye. Employers, landlords, admissions officers, and other private parties won’t be able to see it. However, courts and law enforcement officers will still be able
to access a record of your criminal activity.
Many people who have run-ins with the law mistakenly believe they do not have a record because they were not convicted. Not true. Even if you were only arrested—or simply charged—there is likely some record of it on file.
Unfortunately, strict criteria must be met in order to qualify for record sealing. You may be eligible to have your record sealed if:
There are a few exceptions. If a plea bargain from another case resulted in your case getting dismissed—or you not getting charged at all—then you cannot have the relevant portion of your record sealed.
Cases involving sexual misconduct or driving under the influence also may not be sealed. Class 1 or 2 misdemeanor traffic offenses, Class A or B traffic infractions, or convictions involving the holder of a commercial driver’s license cannot be sealed either.
If you were convicted of an offense involving controlled substances, you may meet the criteria for having your record sealed. First and foremost, you must have fulfilled the terms of your sentence—meaning you’ve paid all fines and completed your probation.
Whether or not your controlled substance case is eligible for sealing depends on the details
surrounding your case. Many of those convicted of drug charges over 10 years ago will be able to seal their record if they have not been in trouble with the law since. Colorado makes a number of exceptions to this rule, which can be read in full in Colorado Statutes § 24-72-308.5.
Details and forms to apply for sealing or expungement can be found on the Colorado Judicial Branch Website. This isn’t something most people should take on alone, though. Sealing your record is a long and difficult process, and a seemingly simple mistake can put the whole thing in jeopardy. To give yourself the best chance at success, work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. He or she will be able to guide and advise you every step of the way and help you avoid errors.