When a person is arrested or convicted of a crime in Colorado, the offense goes on the person's permanent record. Permanent records are generally discoverable online during any routine background check. Getting a record "sealed" means that the criminal record becomes invisible, and it will no longer be returned during a background check.
In Colorado, both misdemeanor and felony convictions may be eligible to be sealed. A waiting period of 10 years is generally required before you can petition to seal the record, except in some extenuating circumstances.
Difference between sealing and expungement
Only juvenile records can be expunged. When a record is expunged, it's never actually submitted to the court; therefore, there's no physical record to seal. Adult records are always sent to the court, meaning that adult criminal records are only eligible for sealing, not expungement.
How to seal a record
To get a criminal record sealed, first you must petition the District Court by filing a civil case in the district in which any arrest and/or criminal records are filed. The State Judicial website provides information and forms for filing your petition. Contact your local clerk's office for details and assistance as necessary.
Record sealing requirements
To be approved to have a criminal record sealed, the person must meet one of the following requirements:
- The person was acquitted.
- All charges against the person were dismissed.
- The person entered a plea bargain to have the case dismissed; it's been at least 10 years since the final disposition was entered; and the defendant hasn't been charged with any additional crimes.
- The person wasn't actually charged in court (only an arrest record remains) and the statute of limitations has run out for all offenses.
However, even if the person meets the above requirements, the criminal record cannot be sealed if:
- The person still owes fees, fines, court costs, or other restitution
- The conviction was related to certain unlawful sexual conduct
- The charge was a Class A or Class B traffic infraction OR a Class 1 or Class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense
Advantages to having a record sealed
When a criminal record has been successfully sealed, the record is not accessible to the public without a proper court order. From the time the court approves the petition, the defendant can legally claim that the criminal record does not exist.
In many cases, employers will automatically reject job applicants with criminal records. So having a record sealed will considerably open up the person's job prospects. Additionally, a record seal can improve the person's social standing by removing the stigma that comes with having a criminal record.