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Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records in Colorado

According to the Colorado Open Records Act, criminal records are accessible to state residents. Although the purpose of the law is to ensure transparency in public agencies, the public disclosure of some records long after conviction and sentence requirements are satisfied may be counterproductive. Some of the negative impact of an open criminal record include:

  • The inability to secure a job,
  • The inability to get student financial aid
  • The inability to rent a house.

To avoid these, arrested or convicted persons in Colorado may seal or completely erase (expunge) their criminal history. According to §§ 24–72–701—24–72–708 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, persons acquitted and convicted of crimes such as traffic violations, DUI, and juvenile-related crimes may expunge their criminal records. Other criminal records, including sexual offenses, child pornography, and other violent crimes, are not eligible for expungement.

The Difference Between Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records

In Colorado, a sealed record is not available to the public but can still be accessed by the record holder and law enforcement agencies. Also, individuals may access a sealed record by getting a court order. On the other hand, an expunged record is erased from the authorized record custodian’s database. As a result, individuals whose criminal history has been expunged may claim that they did not commit the crime. Generally, only some specific adult crimes and juvenile records in Colorado may be sealed.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that the person resides in or was accused in

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How to Seal a Criminal Record in Colorado

In Colorado, record sealing requests are open to offenders whose cases were dismissed, charges were dropped, or were acquitted of a crime. Criminals who were convicted for drug offenses and human trafficking may also have their history files restricted from public view. Eligible persons can follow the process below to seal their criminal records.

  • Contact the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to get a copy of the criminal history record. Requesters can access their records at the online repository or send mail requests to:

Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

690 Kipling Street

Suite 315

Lakewood, CO 80215

Phone: (303) 239–4208

  • Complete the appropriate petition form.
  • File the petition together with a $224 filing fee. Petitioners that are unable to pay may fill and submit a Motion to File Without Payment.
  • Wait for the court to go through the documents and decide if there will be a hearing or not. The petition may be granted or denied without a hearing.
  • If the court sets up a hearing date, the petitioner may be required to answer some questions about the request.
  • Once the request is granted, the petitioner is required to notify the agencies of the approval.

What Crimes Can Be Expunged in Colorado

Only the arrest records of a juvenile and arrests made due to mistaken identity can be expunged in Colorado. Expunged criminal records are completely removed from the record custodian’s repository. Since expunged records are destroyed, it is impossible for anyone, including law enforcement agencies, to view the document after expungement.

How to Expunge Criminal Records in Colorado

The process of expunging a criminal record in Colorado is challenging. In both cases, the petitioner must complete the five-year waiting period before filing a request. Once the court grants the petition, a notice will be sent to the district attorney or prosecutor’s office. If there is no objection from the prosecutor, the court will enter an expungement order.

Do Sealed Records Show up in Colorado Background Checks?

No. Sealed records are restricted and cannot show up in background checks available through the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. As such, employees and financial institutions cannot access these records. Without a public criminal record, the defendant also has a right to claim non-involvement in the crime. Nonetheless, it is essential to note that a sealed record may be accessible by law enforcement agencies, approved public agencies, and the record holder.

Who Can See Sealed Criminal Records in Colorado

Sealed records are only hidden, not destroyed. This means that it is still available at the state repository even though members of the public may not have access to it. All approved record custodians in Colorado are required by law to respond to requests for the record by saying that a sealed record does not exist. However, the owner of the record may still have access to such records. Other state agencies such as the department of public safety and insurance companies may seek access to the records.

How to Obtain Sealed Records in Colorado

Sealed records are open to the record holder and other approved agencies in the state. Generally, a court order is necessary to obtain these records as they are not available online. Note that regardless of being sealed, these records are still available with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. The department, which is a division of the Colorado Department of Public Safety, maintains a central repository of all criminal records in the state. As such, the record holder may obtain the record by contacting CBI through the address below:

Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

690 Kipling Street

Suite 315

Lakewood, CO 80215

Phone: (303) 239–4208

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