We Can Help You Expunge a Criminal Record
Criminal records might be the single greatest impediment to employment opportunities, admission to schools, and scholarship prospects. We live in a fiercely competitive world, where there are more people seeking work than there are jobs, more people applying to schools than there are spots in the next class. Decision-makers have to sift through dozens, hundreds, even thousands of applicants as efficiently as possible. The fastest and easiest way to exclude candidates is based on whether and to what extent they have a criminal history.
Being charged with a crime is difficult for anyone to bear. You have to decide whether to go to trial or whether to enter into a plea agreement with the prosecution. If you go to trial and are convicted, or if you accept a plea bargain, some kind of sentence or conditions will be imposed on you by the court. You may be required to take remedial classes, to abstain from alcohol use, to perform community service, or any number of other things.
How to Seal Your Criminal Record
By the time you complete your sentence or the conditions of your plea agreement, it is likely that much time will have passed since you were first charged by the police. You may be mentally or physically exhausted, and the whole ordeal probably cost you much of your hard-earned money for fines and fees. Understandably, you want your criminal case to be over and behind you.
Is Your Criminal Record Accessible To Employers?
What you may not realize is that the end of the sentence is not the end of the case as far as its impacts on your ability to get a job or get into school. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation maintains a database called the Colorado Criminal History (CCH) system. It is very inexpensive and easy for employers to run criminal background checks through the CCH website. If the search for your name returns a record, it is likely the employer will simply throw your application in the trash without taking the time to find out what ultimately happened in your criminal case.
You may be wondering, “How can I end up in the CCH database?” Not all criminal cases generate a CCH record—only arrests in which the arrestee is fingerprinted (one step in the jail process known as “booking”). So, cases in which the police only issue a citation or rare cases in which police make an arrest but ultimately release the suspect without booking them would not be in the CCH system. However, all felony arrests and most misdemeanor arrests (including driving under the influence, domestic violence, etc.) will result in CCH records.
You may also wonder, “Is CCH the only place where an employer could learn about my arrest?” The answer to that question is: yes and no. Technically, any entity that touches your case (law enforcement agency, court, etc.) will make a record of your contact with the entity. Police and court files are, by and large, available to the public. Today, many of these entities make their records searchable online. So, it is theoretically possible for an employer to conduct a search of, for example, the Denver Police Department’s records and discover that you were issued a citation, whereas a CCH search of your name would not have shown the citation. Practically speaking, though, to make records requests of multiple separate entities would be too time-consuming. Thus, the CCH database is the primary place employers look for criminal histories.
What If Your Case Was Dismissed?
To recap, even if your case is ultimately dismissed (e.g., because you successfully completed the terms of a deferred judgment), the existence of your arrest record can hurt your ability to get a job. This is because employers usually do not have the time to delve into the details of a criminal record. That is, they usually will not give you a chance to explain. They ask, “Does the background check show anything?” If the answer is yes, they are through with you.
How, then, do you achieve freedom from your criminal past? How do you truly move on and cease to suffer the consequences of the case? You get the record “sealed.” Colorado law acknowledges the dire results of a criminal record and allows those records to be sealed (elsewhere known as “expunged”) if certain criteria are met. That said, the law governing which records may be sealed and when they may be sealed is extremely complex. It has been continuously amended for the last several decades, including as recently as 2013. Now, some records which were not eligible to be sealed under the old law have become eligible. The attorneys at Hebets & McCallin are experts in Colorado’s sealing statutes and can explain to you whether your case qualifies.
How Do Sealings Work?
What is sealing, and how does it work? Sealing a criminal record, contrary to some commonly held beliefs, does not result in the record being deleted, destroyed, or blacked out as with classified documents in spy movies. A criminal record becomes “sealed” by a court order, which directs those who keep records associated with the case not to disclose them to the public. A copy of the order gets attached to any given entity’s file and reminds the staff in charge of the records to respond to requests for information that “no record exists” under your name.
How do you get a court order to seal the record in your criminal case? First, several documents must prepared, filed with the court, and copies must be sent to all interested parties, including the arresting agency and the district attorney. If your case meets the threshold criteria for sealing, the court will schedule a hearing. At the hearing, the court will again assess whether your case is eligible for sealing and will allow any interested parties to voice their objections to the records being sealed. Then, you or your attorney will have an opportunity to argue why the records should be sealed. Ultimately, the court will grant the petition (and issue an order sealing the record) or the court will deny the petition. If the petition is granted, you are responsible for mailing copies of the order to all entities who might keep a record associated with the case.
It should be noted that more than half of all petitions filed by people on their own behalf (without an attorney) are denied without a hearing or denied at the hearing because the self-represented petitioner misunderstood the sealing law and their case was technically ineligible to be sealed. Because this results in much frustration, forfeiture of a $225 filing fee, and a one year period in which you are barred from refiling your petition, you are strongly encouraged to work with an attorney to seal your record. Hebets & McCallin has years of experience advising clients about whether their case can be sealed now or in the future, as well as representing clients throughout the sealing process. Please call us for a free consultation.