Colorado Court Records
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Where to Find Colorado Civil Court Records
In Colorado, civil court records refer to official reports and documents generated during civil proceedings in the state courts. These records may include exhibits, motions, evidence, court judgment, and other paper and electronic documents filed in connection with private disagreements between individuals or entities. The clerks of the civil courts are tasked with collecting, managing, and releasing court records heard within their jurisdiction. Knowing the steps to take when looking for specific or multiple civil court records is beneficial to save time and resources. Third-party amalgamation sites like Colorado.Courtrecords.org maintain an extensive repository of state-wide court records that may serve as an efficient starting point when searching for single or aggregate civil court records.
Are Colorado Civil Court Records Public?
As per Colorado Public Access to Court Records, the judicial arm of the state government must provide access to its public court records to the extent that it is feasible to do so. As such, willing individuals may inspect and copy civil court records managed by the various court custodians in the state. However, the presumed public right of access is not absolute; this is because some records are by statute or court rule. Such records are strictly limited to persons who meet certain eligibility criteria such as:
- Parties to the case
- Their attorneys (if represented)
- Judges and court staff
- Other authorized department staff such as members of the law enforcement agencies
- Persons with relevant court orders
Types of Cases in Colorado Civil Courts
There are 3 major levels of civil courts in the State of Colorado including small claims courts, county courts, and district courts. These courts have varying judicial authority and preside over different types of cases. The court where a civil lawsuit will be litigated is determined by the amount of money in controversy. Small claims resolve disputes involving $7,500 or less, excluding court costs and attorney fees. Examples of cases covered by these courts include:
- Minor contract disputes including failure to meet terms of a service contract
- Recovery of money such as repayment of loans or security deposits
- Breach of restrictive covenants
- Residential property conflicts
- Landlord-tenant disputes
- Personal injury matters such as dog bites
County courts handle limited civil cases, where the amount in dispute is less than $25,000 excluding court costs and attorney fees. These include the same types of cases brought in small claims but are more in-depth such as:
- Credit card debts
- Breach of contract cases such as entertainment breaches
- Negligence and battery cases
- Defamation cases such as libel and slander
- Eviction claims
District courts are the highest trial-level courts in Colorado. These courts entertain unlimited cases with over $25,000 in controversy. In addition to cases heard in the aforementioned courts, district courts also hear:
- Replevin cases
- Lien and foreclosure cases
- Wrongful death cases
- Workers compensation cases
- Civil rights violations
- Family cases involving divorce, adoption, and paternity
On a related note, a case determined in a county court may be appealed to the district court. Trial court decisions may also be appealed to higher appellate-level courts. Note that civil cases involving water rights and administration are exclusively handled by water courts.
What is the Difference Between Criminal Cases and Civil Cases
Generally speaking, criminal cases are court proceedings involving alleged actions considered to be legally wrong under the Colorado state or federal government laws, while civil cases comprise of other cases that are non-criminal in nature. It is important to understand the disparities between civil cases and criminal cases and some of them include:
- Initiation: A civil case begins when a party sues another person, business, or institution because of a disagreement between them. Criminal cases begin when a person is arrested and indicted for committing a crime. These cases are primarily filed by a prosecutor acting on behalf of the state or federal government.
- Right to an attorney: Because criminal defendants are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty, they must be legally represented by a professional in court. Those that cannot afford to hire private attorneys usually have lawyers from the public defender's offices assigned to them. On the other hand, plaintiffs and defendants in civil cases may decide to hire a lawyer or represent themselves in court. The government does not owe such litigants legal representation of any sort.
- Standard of proof: The basis of proof in criminal cases is "beyond a reasonable doubt" as opposed to "preponderance of evidence" used in civil cases
- Outcome: The positive outcome of civil cases are usually monetary compensations, injunctions ordering a party to do something or to refrain from doing something, or by some other provisions. The consequences of finding a criminal defendant guilty in court can include jail/prison time, fines, probation, and community service.
How Do I Find Civil Court Records in Colorado
In compliance with the Colorado Open Records Act, interested members of the public may access civil case files upon request. Accessibility of these records varies and depends on the judicial district and whether or not the record is public. Most clerks of courts provide three main channels through which interested parties can retrieve Colorado civil court records:
- By submitting requests in person
- By using the court-operated or third-party online resources
- By sending mail-in queries to the applicable record custodian
How Do I Find Civil Court Records In Person?
To request a civil court record in person, start by locating the court where the specific case of interest was filed. If the court is not known, interested parties may still locate specific civil records by checking:
- The court of the county where the defendant resides, is regularly employed, or runs a business. The level of court where a case is likely to be filed depends on the amount in controversy
- The county where the plaintiff lives or lived at the time of filing the case (for county and district court only)
- The county where the event that led to a lawsuit took place
- The search tools provided by independent sites such as Colorado.courtrecords.org
Upon locating the particular court where a case was filed, place a direct call to the clerk to determine request requirements and fees. Generally, requesters must provide useful information that conforms with the court's indexing system. Such information can include case number, the approximate date or year the case was filed, and the names of parties involved in the case. The Colorado Judicial Branch provides an online form to simplify the application process. Make sure to provide as much request information as possible. If the record of interest is sealed or suppressed, eligible requesters will be expected to include a state-issued ID card. Applicable fees and request costs are accessed in accordance with the Chief Justice Directive (CJD 06-01). The clerks charge $75 per page of paper documents and $20 per certified or exemplified document. Additional fees may apply if the case file is stored in an off-site location. After gathering all the required documents, go to the clerk's window at the courthouse to make the request. If the civil transcript, case file, or judgment of interest is a public record, consider searching the public index or computer terminal available at the courthouse. Most clerks provide same-day services for physical requesters. However, some conditions where this service may be unavailable can include when:
- The record is stored in a different location
- The request includes compiled or aggregate case files
- The requester came late, usually after 4:00 p.m.
How Do I Find Civil Court Records By Mail?
To complete a mail-in request for a civil court record, start by writing a request including the case number, case type, party information, as well as any other identifying details necessary to locate the case file. Then, send the request along with a check or money order of applicable fees, and a self-addressed stamped envelope to the clerk's mail address. Make sure to attach a self-addressed stamped envelope if requesting confidential information or certified/exemplified documents. The same fee schedule applies for both in-person and mail-in request methods. Ensure to ask the clerk for the actual fee to be paid before proceeding with the request. Use the Colorado Court Directory to view physical locations, mailing addresses, and contact details of the different county courts or judicial districts.
How Do I Find Civil Court Records Online?
The Colorado State Judiciary System provides remote access to public court documents including case files, judgments, dockets, and more. While it does not maintain a unified case search database that cuts across all civil courts in the state, it allows members of the public to submit their requests online. To take advantage of this feature, complete the Record/Document Request Form, and click on submit at the lower end of the page. Payment is the same as for physical and mail-in requests. Note that requesters may be prompted to provide a government-issued ID depending on the availability status of the requested document.
What is Included in a Colorado Civil Court Record?
Colorado civil court records are primarily generated to provide an insight into the state's civil court system. While the information contained in these records are unique to each case, they share similar general characteristics. Most civil court records feature the names of the parties in the case as well as the case type and details of the filed civil suit. Such details can include the place and date the action was initiated and details of the defendant's counterclaim (if applicable). Not all filed civil cases make it to trial, some end with pretrial conferences. Records of such civil cases also feature details of alternative dispute resolutions, pretrial negotiations, and agreed-upon settlements.
Where a case is tried by a judge or jury, its record will also contain information pertaining to court hearing processes including motions, arguments, evidence, as well as final dispositions and judgment. In addition to these, civil court records may also include penalties issued to parties held in contempt of court and details of appeals made to higher courts.
How to Access Colorado Civil Court Records For Free
Most civil court records are available for free. This means that members of the public are not required to pay for viewing or inspecting records maintained in courthouse public terminals. However, pursuant to CJD 06-01, Colorado court clerks are allowed to charge a fee for making copies of civil court records. Those that cannot afford to cover required fees may apply for a fee waiver under CJD 06-01 or C.R.S § 13-32-104(1)(a).
How To Seal Civil Court Records in Colorado
Colorado State permits sealing or suppressing of court records. It is recommended to speak with a lawyer before proceeding to file a petition to seal a civil record. The lawyer will consider the circumstances and determine if a legal justification for sealing the records exists. Generally, sealing a civil court record requires the petitioner to file a motion to seal at the court where the case was heard. The petition must cite reasons why restricting public access is in the interest of justice. After filing the case, the clerk will notify other parties in the case and if they unanimously agree, a hearing may not be necessary. After reviewing the petition, associated evidence, and testimony (if any), the judge may grant the petition by issuing a court order.
How To Access Sealed Civil Court Records in Colorado
Typically, sealed civil court records are limited to statutorily authorized parties such as:
- Parties in the case
- Their legal representatives
- Authorized court employees
- Members of the law enforcement agencies
Members of the public that do not fall under any of the aforementioned categories can only access sealed civil court records with a court order. To obtain a court order authorizing access to a civil court record, go to the clerk's office to officially file a petition.