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 2019. 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? Pursuant to a recent change in the law, there are two separate statutes covering sealings in Colorado. If your case was ultimately dismissed through a successfully completed deferred judgment, through a prosecution motion to dismiss, or through an aquittal at trial, you may be eligible for a simplified sealing. This is a streamlined process with a reduced filing fee, and a shorter timeframe for sealing.
Can you seal your convictions in Colorado? In many cases the answer is yes. Your qualification depends upon the class of misdemeanor or felony that you were convicted of, the time since completion of your sentence, and your subsequent criminal history. If you qualify, there are several steps that you must take. 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.
Located Outside of Colorado?
We partner with other national law firms to assist those looking to clear their criminal records in other states.
Carver, Cantin, & Mynarich - Southwest Missouri Expungements