In 2019, the Colorado legislature passed House Bill 1275, which dramatically revised and expanded Colorado’s criminal record-sealing statutes. This new law makes it possible to seal many types of criminal records that could not have been sealed before, including all misdemeanors and many felonies. While limitations and various waiting periods may apply before a case is eligible to be sealed, this new sealing law is a game-changer for many people with Colorado criminal histories that would like to put that history behind them.
But why does this matter? Why should you hire an attorney to help seal your case? The reason is that even a single offense on your criminal record can have incredibly adverse consequences on your life. Employers often run background checks on potential or current employees. A criminal case on your record can lead to not getting a job, or if you already have it, losing that job. Even having a deferred sentence on your record can negatively impact some careers. Many times, the person does not even know they were either terminated or not hired because of their prior offense. A criminal record may also result in being denied housing, loans, and educational opportunities. Don’t take a chance with your livelihood and your future.
Criminal record sealing law firm Peakstone Law Group, LLC serves the entire state of Colorado and may be able to help you seal your criminal case, reducing its long-term impact on your life. Contact Colorado Springs criminal defense lawyer Patterson Weaver for help to seal your record; call for a free consultation to find out whether your case is eligible to be sealed
What Are the Benefits of Having My Case Sealed in Colorado Springs?
Sealing a case means that civilian background checks cannot see a record of the arrest, let alone the case itself. It will appear to most as if your case never existed at all. Potential and current employers that run a background check on you will simply not see the sealed case. Moreover, under the Colorado Revised Statutes §24-72-702(4), if you are asked on a job application or educational application if you have ever been arrested for a crime, you can legally exclude the sealed case from your answer. Additionally, if an employer or educational institution somehow discovers your sealed case, they cannot legally deny you a job or admission solely because of the record. While law enforcement will still be able to see the existence of the case, most background checks that pop up during everyday life will not. Having a criminal record can severely limit your opportunities when it comes to your career, education, volunteering, and even traveling. Sealing your criminal records may allow you to finally leave your old mistakes behind you and move on with your life.
How Is Sealing a Case Different From Expunging a Case?
Many states permit individuals to expunge cases in some circumstances, and therefore people in Colorado hoping to seal their case often misuse the term “expunged.” While juvenile cases in Colorado can be expunged, under Colorado law it is generally not possible to “expunge” a non-juvenile case. The one exception to this is in cases of mistaken identity when no charges were filed. The difference between sealing and expunging is that expunging a case means that even the physical files are destroyed, and all traces of the case is erased from all databases. The legislature in Colorado has decided that our laws should not generally go that far, reasoning that law enforcement should be able to have access to old case files. Instead, Colorado permits the sealing of the cases, which greatly restricts who can see and access sealed criminal cases. Although it is not the same as expungement, sealing a criminal case is still sufficient for most purposes in daily life, and is far better than not having the case sealed.
Who Can Seal Their Case & Who Can’t in COS?
Nearly all dismissed cases are eligible to be sealed at any time, whether they are dismissed outright, or as a result of a successful deferred sentence. Similarly, records of a crime for which a defendant was found not guilty are also eligible for sealing at any time. It is also possible to seal convictions for traffic offenses, petty offenses, and municipal offenses after a waiting period. However, the most significant change in the new case-sealing laws is that more serious convictions can now be sealed as well.
There are numerous types of criminal convictions that may now be eligible to be sealed which could not have been sealed under the old laws. For instance, many lower-level felony and drug felony convictions are now eligible to be sealed after a specified waiting period following the case. All misdemeanor and drug misdemeanor convictions can also potentially be sealed after a waiting period. Even domestic violence misdemeanors and unclassified misdemeanors such as DUIs, DWAIs, and DURs may be able to be sealed.
The waiting period required for conviction records will require that the defendant wait a specified amount of time following the end of all criminal proceedings, or release from court supervision, whichever is later. For many convictions, the required waiting period will be 2 to 3 years, but can often range from 1 to 5 years, depending on the type of charge. Additionally, before a record can be sealed, the defendant must have all court costs, restitution, late fees, and other court-ordered fees paid in full.
Colorado’s new case sealing law is great news for people with criminal records they would like to leave behind, however in many instances, determining whether a case is eligible to be sealed can be much more complicated than it would seem. You should consult with an experienced Colorado Springs record sealing attorney to find out whether your particular matter is eligible for sealing, and how likely it is that your case will be successfully sealed.
How Does the Court Decide if My Case Should Be Sealed?
To seal records of past cases, it is necessary to file a motion or petition with the court. Under C.R.S. §24-72-705, dismissed charges or charges that resulted in acquittal generally must be sealed. Most conviction records, however, will be sealed if the court finds that the “harm to the privacy of the petitioner or dangers of unwarranted adverse consequences to the petitioner outweighs the public interest in retaining the records…” C.R.S. §24-72-706(1)(g). In other words, the court applies a balancing test between the public’s interest in keeping the record viewable, and your interest in having it sealed. Other convictions, such as domestic violence misdemeanors, driving under the influence offenses, and certain sexual offenses, are subject to a higher standard under C.R.S. §24-72-706(2)(b). These types of convictions will be sealed if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the petitioner’s need for sealing is significant and substantial, the petitioner is not a threat to the public, and the record is not necessary to protect or inform the public.
When determining whether to seal your criminal records, the court will take into consideration your overall criminal history, the severity and the total number of offenses to be sealed, and any government need to retain the records. While some records may be able to be sealed without the need for a formal hearing, many others will require it, depending on the circumstances. An experienced record-sealing lawyer in Colorado Springs presenting your case and arguing your matter to the court can greatly increase the chances of successfully sealing the records. This is especially true if the District Attorney’s office objects to your petition to seal. Having a sealing attorney on your side can make the difference in whether your criminal record ultimately remains public or becomes sealed.
What Should I Do if I Want to Seal My Case?
If you have a criminal record in Colorado and are interested in sealing your case, contact experienced criminal defense attorneys Peakstone Law Group, LLC. Our team will help you determine whether your case can be sealed and give you your best chance at successfully having it sealed. Take the next step to prevent your criminal record from having a future impact on your career, family, and life.
Call for a free consultation to find out whether your case is sealable, and finally put your criminal record behind you. Questions? Don’t hesitate to call 719-249-7273 or contact us online.