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What are Colorado Criminal Court Records?
Colorado criminal court records refer to the official documents created in relation to criminal court proceedings within the state's jurisdiction. This constitutes legal documentation of indictments, affidavits, testimonies, judgments, calendar events, and other related reports generated during criminal court proceedings in the state. As provided by the Colorado Court Records Policy, court records can be made available to interested persons upon request, provided the records are deemed public records, or the requestor meets the eligibility criteria for accessing otherwise sealed information.
Note: Court records are not alternative documents of criminal history information or background check records. Those documents are maintained by the state’s law enforcement agencies.
What’s contained in a Colorado Criminal Court File?
The information contained in a criminal court record depends on the nature of the case and the court’s protocols. However, most criminal court records share similar characteristics which may include:
- Arrest/Offense date and arresting agency
- Names and personal information of the persons/organizations involved
- Names of the attending attorney(s)
- Case information including case number, case filing date, and status
- Filed charges
- Events of the case
- Findings/sentence information
- Scheduled events/events status
Who can access Criminal Court Records in Colorado?
Following the establishment of the Colorado Public Record Procedural Law, all criminal court records that have not been rendered confidential by statute or court rule are public records and must be released to anyone upon request. In most cases, current case files are housed in the courthouse where the case was heard while older records may be stored at off-site locations. The court clerk is the records custodian and is responsible for the management and release of the official court records within the court’s jurisdiction.
Can I Get Criminal Records for Free Online?
The Colorado judicial court website maintains a free docket search portal for accessing the general information of the district and county court case files. Interested parties can find and view this docket by entering a case number, party/entity first or last name, and attorney’s bar number. These electronic sheets represent brief summaries of case activities and may take a while to be updated as regards to new changes in a case. However, it is pertinent to note that the website is not known to provide an access portal to copies of trial court case documents and files. For case-specific searches, requestors must either visit the custodian of records in the courthouse where the action was filed or visit an aggregate proxy site like CourtRecords.org which allows users to search court records for a fee. Most record custodians also require that requesters make a fee of nominal value for the copying of available court records.
Understanding the Colorado Court Structure
The state of Colorado operates a simple court system primarily composed of appellate courts and trial courts. In addition, there are several other administrative and specialized courts including small claims courts, probate court, juvenile court. The appellate-level courts consist of the Supreme Court and the court of appeals. The trial courts are made up of district courts, county courts, and water courts.
Supreme Court: Headquartered in Denver, the Colorado Supreme Court has seven justices and serves as the court of last resort for all criminal cases in the state. It exercises sovereign jurisdiction over appeals of death verdicts decided at the lower court decisions. In addition, it also offers advisory opinions over administrative law.
Courts of Appeal: The Colorado Court of Appeals also has no original jurisdiction over criminal matters. It functions as the court of last resort over felony cases decided upon by the lower courts. Its determination of an appeal is final unless the Supreme Court decides to review the case. It also functions to review the decisions of the various state administrative agencies. Located in Denver, the court has 22 judges each sitting in a panel of 3 members to hear cases.
District Courts: The district courts are the trial courts of general jurisdiction over civil and criminal case matters. Having 22 district courts in the state, they have overlapping jurisdiction with the appellate courts, each exercising advisory decisions over cases from lower courts. However, the district court hears appeals only when the case hasn't been taken to the appellate courts.
County Courts: With about 114 judges, county courts have limited jurisdiction over criminal cases. They handle minor misdemeanors, felonies (before transfer to the district courts), small claims, and protection orders.
How do I obtain Colorado Criminal Court Records?
Interested persons may opt to obtain criminal court records using any of the following means:
- Obtaining records in person
- Obtaining records online
- Obtaining records by mail
- Obtaining records from third-party aggregate sites
How Do I Find a Criminal Court Record in Person?
Step 1. Gather Relevant Information
To render a record request, various information is needed to aid the personalization and location of the sought record. Such information includes:
- The case number
- Name of parties to the record
- Estimated filing date range
- Name of the presiding judge
Also, correct identification of the court where the case was filed is necessary because the different courts only have authority over records filed within their jurisdiction.
Step 2. Locate and Visit the Courthouse
Depending on the specific court guidelines, requesters can conduct a search by submitting a written request to the clerk of court or record custodian for the court. Some courts provide online request forms that can be printed from the court website and filled before visiting the court to simplify the process. Other courts may provide this request form in paper format which makes pre-completion before visit impossible. The use of a known case number provides the quickest path to obtaining records. If the case number is not known, some court clerks may require additional fees to access these records. Also, most courts maintain a self-help online terminal where cases can be searched by name allowing physical requesters the advantage of viewing and inspecting records before requesting copies (if needed).
Step 3. Pay the required fee and Obtain Copies of Records
Individuals who wish to obtain copies of criminal records will be required to pay a fee for this service. The payment method and requirement varies from court to court and also depends on the number of pages intended to be copied. Requesters must pay the absolute cost of requested copies to avoid rejection by the clerk. Additional fees may apply if certified copies are also requested.
How Do I Obtain Criminal Court Records by Mail?
Some district and county courts offer the option of requesting criminal court records by mail. Members of the public can identify if the court of interest offers mail-in options by visiting the Website of the specific court clerk. The clerk of court generally provides the mailing address and specific steps required for obtaining records by mail. Some courts may provide a downloadable form to expedite the process.
How to Obtain Colorado Criminal Court Records Online
The Colorado Supreme Court maintains a Public Access to Court Records Portal designed to provide public access to criminal court proceedings from the court. This site can be utilized by case number, party name, date range, or nature of the suit. There's no fee attached to view these records. However, to get printed copies, a nominal fee may be required.
It is the duty of the requester to notify the clerk to calculate the cost of the record. Criminal case records filed and heard at the district and county courts are not managed online, which limits the option of walk-in and mail-in requests. In accordance with the provisions made by the public record policy, the information accessible to remote searches are limited to the party names involved in the case, case information such as case number, case judge, scheduled date, time and location of court proceedings, orders and decrees, judgment and other relevant documents that serve as evidence. On the other hand, information which specifically identifies jurors, victims, witnesses, and impartial parties are excluded from the web portal. These records typically require in-person or mail-in requests to be retrieved from the court clerk.
Also, the state’s judiciary maintains a central docket sheet portal which contains general information generated during the appellate and trial court hearings. All information available on the unified web portal may be accessed for free. However, an additional search fee may apply if the case number is not known.
Publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third party sites are not government sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.
Are all Colorado Criminal Court Records Available Online?
No, not all criminal court records in the state of Colorado are available online. Pursuant to the state’s court record-keeping laws, most trial court records are not maintained on the state or county websites. This is done to protect record confidentiality and also to avoid the illegal use of court records. Also, the online docket offers only general information while excluding case-specific information that may reveal information that is otherwise protected from public view. Such protected information includes criminal records that contain:
- Financial data (excluding financial summary screen)
- Biodata and personal information of parties in cases
- Information related to victims, witnesses and impartial parties in cases
Can Members of the Public See a Colorado Expunged Juvenile Record?
Colorado expunged juvenile records are ‘forgiven and forgotten’ records of non-adult/juvenile delinquency cases. Following expungement, the record is removed from all indexes and paper copies are destroyed. Members of the public cannot access these records because they are regarded as non-existent. However, records of juveniles charged as adults can not be expunged and can be accessed by the public. Records eligible for expungement include class 1 misdemeanor, a misdemeanor sex offense, misdemeanor domestic violence, and a first-time felony adjudication.
How Do I Find Federal Court Records?
Records of criminal cases filed in federal district courts within Colorado can be accessed by utilizing the public terminal located at the clerk’s office. These records can also be obtained by subscribing and accessing the court’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) platform. The PACER portal can be used to search through the appellate case records. It also includes a case locator tool that residents can use for nationwide searches.
Are Trial Transcripts Open to the Public?
Trial transcripts are primarily open to the general public. However, transcripts of pre-sentenced cases, juvenile delinquency cases, and other cases that are deemed confidential by statute or court rule may be unavailable for public view.
How do I Obtain Colorado Court Transcripts?
Members of the public may request copies of court transcripts for cases filed at the court. These copies are to be made from the official transcript and may be provided to an interested person for a fee. Depending on the court, requests may be made in person or by mail. Submitted requests will be expected to include relevant information that can facilitate the search, such as:
- The name of the presiding judge
- The date the case was heard
- Case number and Courtroom number
Mail-in forms may also require a return address, the name and contact details of the ordering party. Usually, payment must be made before a request is processed by the clerk.
How Do I Obtain Federal Criminal Court Records Online?
The United States District Courts of Colorado are courts of federal jurisdictions located at Denver, Colorado Springs, Grand Junction, and Durango. The courts are responsible for presiding over federal criminal cases in their respective jurisdiction as well as maintaining records of the presided cases.