What is expungement?
If you’ve been arrested or convicted of a crime in the past, that record can create several unwanted and negative consequences in your life for many years, long after you’ve paid your debt to society. Even if you were only arrested but not convicted, a record will exist that can still damage your reputation. Advancements in technology make it easier than ever to conduct background searches on people, allowing almost anyone to gain access to a person’s complete history. Such readily accessible records can complicate matters when applying for a job, trying to buy a car, rent an apartment, and numerous other situations.
If the circumstances of an arrest or conviction fall within certain guidelines, a person’s arrest/conviction record can be sealed in a process known as expungement. Technically speaking, the term expungement means that records are physically destroyed, but because some states do not allow for the physical destruction of records, it has become commonplace that “expungement” and “sealed” are used interchangeably.
In Colorado, when an expungement is granted, the records in question are sealed. This means those records cannot be accessed for civil or general law enforcement use. In some special instances, the records may be searched, retrieved or used, but a court order is normally required before they can be accessed.
What are the benefits of expungement?
There are a number of benefits to having records expunged. The biggest one is that you can truthfully say that you have never been arrested, accused or charged with a crime. An expungement restores you and your name to the state in life you had enjoyed before you ran into any kind of legal problems.
This can impact many parts of your life.
When you apply for a job, you can state on your application that you have never been arrested. If you already work for an employer, by law, they cannot ask about any expunged records. An expunged record will not show up on most pre-employment background checks, and an expunged record cannot be used in any employment decision either. When you are able to say truthfully that you do not have a criminal history, you make yourself eligible to apply for better jobs that pay you more money, allowing you to increase your earning capacity over the course of your working life.
When you are seeking to rent an apartment, many landlords will not only run credit checks, but they will also run criminal history checks as well. After an expungement, no criminal activity will show up, meaning that you will not be denied living in the place you want to because of your past actions. The same holds true when you want to buy a home or apply for a credit card. Background checks in these instances will also produce no negative marks against you, thereby increasing your chances of approval.
Who can have their records expunged in Colorado
In Colorado, both juveniles and adults can have their records expunged if they meet the required guidelines.
When a juvenile appears in a court of law, the court will advise either the juvenile or a responsible parent or guardian that they have the right to expunge the juvenile’s record. Expungement can actually be initiated by the juvenile probation department, juvenile parole department, the parent or guardian, the juvenile, or a court-appointed guardian. Although the records will be sealed, they will still be available to any judge and the state’s probation department for use in any future juvenile or adult sentencing hearing.
Expungement may take place as long as the person in question has not be convicted of any felony or misdemeanor involving domestic violence, unlawful sexual behavior, or possession of a weapon. In addition, the person may not have any felony, misdemeanor or delinquency action pending against them and they need to have been rehabilitated to the satisfaction of the court. A juvenile is eligible to immediately petition for expungement if they are found not guilty at a trial, their case was dismissed for non-prosecution, or they have successfully completed a juvenile diversion program. Otherwise, they may petition for expungement anywhere between one and five years after their case has been completed, depending on the circumstances.
For adults, records can be sealed if your case was dismissed outright by the state or if you were found “not guilty” of all charges after a jury trial. If you received a deferred judgment and sentence and successfully completed the terms, you may also be eligible for expungement.
A deferred judgment requires a guilty plea, with an agreement that the offender not be sentenced if all conditions of probation are satisfied within two years. When those terms are met, the matter will be dismissed and you may be able to expunge your arrest record.
If the terms of the deferred adjudication are satisfied, the matter is dismissed altogether and you may be able to expunge your arrest record.
If you have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, you are not eligible for expungement under any circumstances, even if you have completed the terms of your probation.
In addition to physical records, DNA records may also be expunged as well, in certain circumstances.
What is the process for expunging records?
To have records expunged, you must file a Petition to Expunge with the District Court where the record originated. Prosecutors will have an opportunity to review the petition and provide input and objections prior to the court’s review and approval or denial of the petition.
If approved, the District Court will order the Colorado Bureau of Investigations and other reporting agencies to seal the records and not report the contents to the general public. Once this happens, you may truthfully state that you have never been arrested or tried for a crime. Your record will be clean in the eyes of the law.
Contact Decker & Jones for a free consultation
While some people choose to file a petition on their own, with so much at stake and with the need to make a persuasive argument in front of the courts, it is vital that you consider retaining an experienced expungement attorney to represent you.
At Decker & Jones, we have nearly 30 years of combined experience and have successfully helped hundreds of people have their court records expunged, allowing them to move forward with their lives in the most productive way possible.
Contact us today at our Golden or Denver offices at 303.279.1586 or by filling out our online contact form for a free consultation to see how we can put our skills and experience to work for you.