Even Dismissed Cases Are Public Record In Colorado!
Colorado has an Open Records Act which requires most information held by government agencies to be available to the public, this includes arrest and criminal court records. What this means is if you have ever been arrested or charged with any offense in the municipal, county or state district courts in Colorado, those records are available to the public, and in most instances will appear on a simple background check even if your case was dismissed, you were acquitted at trial, or formal charges were never filed. In fact, all cases charged in the City and County of Denver are available for viewing to anyone for free through Denver's website: www.denvergov.org; which means if you have ever been charged in Denver, anyone can find out your basic identification information (height, weight, DOB, etc.) and what you were charged with, even if the case was immediately dismissed, just by typing your name in on the website. The existence of these records can interfere with obtaining jobs, getting an apartment, getting loans, enrolling in educational programs, obtaining professional licensure, as well as the embarrassment or hassle of these records being discovered by friends, family members, or people who may have an interest in using them against you, such as if your are a party in a civil lawsuit. However, Colorado has a sealing law which can make these records no longer public.
Under Colorado law, when a case has been “completely dismissed", the subject of the criminal justice records (the person arrested and/or charged) may file a civil case in the district court where the criminal case originated, petitioning that court to order the records sealed. “Sealing" the records means the records would not be available to the public, and would not show up on background checks, and the person whose records were sealed would be legally permitted to say no such records exist. With a few exceptions, criminal justice agencies would be the only ones who would still have access to the records.
You may be eligible to seal records of a specific arrest or criminal charge if:
You were arrested but no charges were ever filed;
Charges were filed but all charges were later dismissed (unless part of a plea in another case);
You were acquitted of all charges at trial;
You successfully completed a deferred judgment and sentence on all charges to which you pleaded guilty;
Your case was dismissed as part of a plea agreement in a separate case and it has been at least 15 years since you completed any sentence in the separate case and you have not had any further criminal convictions.
Additionally, certain low level drug convictions can now be sealed under a similar Colorado law, but the eligibility requirements are much higher, the costs are much greater, and in most cases the prosecution must agree to the sealing.
Sealing records is not automatic and it is not something you ask the court in your criminal case to do. This is a civil action filed in the district court where the charges were filed. As with any civil case, you have to pay a filing fee and the costs to get everything served. The legal arguments are not especially complicated, unless a criminal justice agency objects to sealing for some reason; however, record sealing requires every agency that has records to be properly served with the petition itself and the order sealing the records if the petition is granted. If you fail to get everything done right, the court might deny your petition or not require every agency with the records to seal them, in which case you spent a lot of time and money for nothing. This is why you should get an attorney for record sealings.
Record sealing usually takes a few months from the time the petition is filed until the order sealing the records is granted (assuming everything goes well). Therefore if you think your dismissed case may cause a problem in the near future, you should be trying to get your records sealed as soon as possible and not wait until the last minute.