Sealing Criminal Convictions
Starting August 2nd, 2019, Colorado's new sealing law under House Bill 19-1275 expands the types of criminal records, including a large number of convictions, that are eligible to be sealed so they no longer appear in background checks or have to be disclosed to employers or schools.
Many Felony and Misdemeanor Convictions are Eligible for SealingWhile Colorado has existing provisions allowing for certain drug convictions and for cases that were dismissed or resulted in an acquittal to be removed from your criminal record, the new law allows a large number of convictions to be sealed after your sentence is completed and a waiting period without any new offenses.
For a Petty Offense or Drug Petty Offense, a petition to seal may be filed after 1 year. For a Class 2 or Class 3 Misdemeanor, or any Drug Misdemeanor, a petition to seal may be filed after 2 years. For a Class 4, 5, or 6 Felony, a Class 1 Misdemeanor, or a Class 3 or 4 Drug Felony, a petition to seal may be filed after 3 years. For all other offenses, a petition to seal may be filed after 5 years.
Ineligible ConvictionsThere are a number of exceptions. Traffic cases and DUI's cannot be sealed. Any conviction for a sex offense, an act of domestic violence, child abuse, animal cruelty and crimes against a pregnant women (including offenses related to abortion) are ineligible. Serious cases, including the highest classes of felonies (F1's, F2's and F'3s) and drug felonies (DF1's) and crimes that fall under statutory "special offender", "extraordinary risk" and "extraordinary aggravating circumstance" enhancers are also excluded.
Filing a Petition to SealOnce a motion to seal is filed, a judge will do an initial review to see if it contains the necessary information required by law.
For a Petty Offense or Petty Drug Offense, a judge will seal the record without a hearing once it has been determined that the motion was properly filed and there have been no new criminal convictions.
For all other offense eligible for sealing, there is the additional requirement that notice must be provided to the District Attorney, who may object. If the District Attorney does not object and the offense is not crime that requires victim notification under C.R.S 24-4.1-302, the record is sealed. If the District Attorney does object, the judge will set a hearing and take into consideration any victim's position. At a hearing, the judge must determine whether the harm to the privacy of the defendant and any adverse consequences to the defendant outweigh the public interest in retaining public access to the record of conviction.
What Does "Sealing" Mean?Sealing does not destroy the record of a conviction, but it limits who may see it. A sealed record is still available to any court, law enforcement agency, criminal justice agency, prosecuting attorney, or a party or agency required by law to conduct a background check. There are also additional restrictions for people seeking to be admitted as a member of the Colorado bar or who seek to seal a record and have an educators license.
At the same time, when a record is sealed, employers, state and local government agencies, landlords, and employees may not require disclosure of any sealed record on any application or interview. A person who has had a record sealed may state they have not been criminally convicted.
Sealing is also reversible. If a person is convicted of a new criminal offense after a record is sealed under the new law, the court shall order the records to be unsealed. "Shall" means it is mandatory- no ifs, ands, or buts.
The Right to Seal Cannot be WaivedThe right to seal cannot be waived as part of a plea bargain. The new law specifically states that the prosecution may not, under any circumstances, require a person agree not to seal a case as part of a plea agreement.