Brace yourself. I’m going to give you the bad news right upfront: You cannot seal the records of a criminal conviction in Colorado. Can’t do it. Period. Colorado’s rules on sealing are limited to cases where charges were never filed in the first place, where all counts have been dismissed, or where the defendant has been acquitted.
“But my case was over years and years ago,” you say. “I successfully completed probation. I did everything the judge and the District Attorney asked of me. Surely there must be some way I can wipe my record clean?” Sorry, old criminal records never die… and they sure as heck don’t fade away.
On the other hand, there just might be some good news for you if you were granted a deferred sentence. A deferred sentence is a deal where you agree to plead guilty and the District Attorney agrees to put off your sentencing for a period of time, up to two years in misdemeanor cases or four years in felony cases. Then, if you complete certain terms and conditions (substance abuse treatment or domestic violence counseling, for example) and stay out of trouble in the interim, at the end of your period of deferment all charges against you are dismissed. In such cases, the District Attorney may sometimes ask you to waive (or give up) your right to have your case sealed, but if not, congratulations, you’re eligible for sealing.
All of the above applies to adult records; the rules for expunging juvenile records are a little different. (To use an old SAT format: expungement is to juvenile records what sealing is to adult records. In both cases, the sealed or expunged records are treated as if they never existed in the first place.) Juvenile offenders are not “convicted;” they are “adjudicated delinquent.” Adjudications, unlike convictions, can be expunged in many cases, so long as the juvenile doesn’t commit any new offenses after his eighteenth birthday.
For example, let’s suppose that “Bobby,” a seventeen-year-old, commits $2,000 worth of damage to his neighbor’s house in a fit of adolescent rage. If an adult did the same thing, it would be a class 4 felony, punishable by prison time. Bobby, however, is still a juvenile. He accepts a plea bargain and is adjudicated a juvenile delinquent. He goes to college, graduates, and is thinking about looking for a job. It’s been four years since his probation ended, but he’s worried about how an employer might view his youthful indiscretions. Bobby is eligible to petition for an expungement order. If it’s granted by the court, Bobby will be legally able to tell his employer that the incident with Bobby’s neighbor never happened.
Of course, if Bobby had been a year older when the whole thing happened, he’d be out of luck. As a convicted felon, it wouldn’t matter how much time had passed or how much Bobby’s life had changed. He still wouldn’t be able to seal the records. And if he came into this office to ask my advice, the best I’d be able to do for him is give him the following phone number on a sticky-note: 303-426-6198 x4136.
At that number you’ll reach the director of pardons, clemency and extradition at the Governor’s office.
Please note that the rule discussed above is not absolute regarding drug cases. Please see our blog dated September 2010 that discusses specifically the sealing of drug convictions.