Sealing Vs Expunging Criminal Records in Colorado


Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes those past mistakes are serious and have long-term implications. When a past mistake or bad judgment results in a criminal record that follows you for the rest of your life it can have long-term impacts on your educational opportunities, career, and relationships. It may even make it difficult to rent an apartment. A DUI conviction also affects your insurance premiums or ability to obtain car insurance.

Today, it’s easy for potential employers and others to gain access to a criminal record through an ordinary background check. Many individuals with a record have made positive changes and moved forward with their new lives, so does a criminal record have to haunt them forever? Many people with a record ask, “Can my record be sealed or expunged, and which is appropriate for my record?

When Can the Courts Expunge a Criminal Record?

Many people use the terms “sealed” and “expunge” interchangeably, but they are very different processes, both of which effectively remove a criminal record from appearing on background checks, but in different ways. The only records that may be expunged are juvenile, underage drunk driving records, and a criminal record for an individual if the case is later proven to have been a mistaken identity.

In an expungement, the criminal record is destroyed so it can’t ever be unearthed in a background check or through any other means. After records are expunged, it’s as though they never existed. Further, the laws state that the individual may lawfully deny that a record ever existed.

An individual may request an expungement of their juvenile record under the following circumstances:

  • A year after completing probation
  • 3 years after your unconditional parole supervision release or commitment to the state’s Department of Human Services
  • 5 years after being released from a repeat offense sentence

Underage drinking and driving records may be expunged immediately if the charges are dismissed, otherwise, they may be expunged after the individual turns 21 years old.

The police automatically expunge a criminal record when they learn it was a case of mistaken identity. The law compels them to make this correction within 90 days of learning their mistake.

Can I Have My Criminal Record Sealed?

Sealing a criminal record does not destroy the record as though it never existed, but it keeps the record from appearing on background checks. It’s essentially invisible to the public, but law enforcement officers and agencies may still access sealed records. For those with criminal convictions who were not juveniles when they were convicted, sealing their record is the only option since a complete expunging of the record is only available to minors.

Not every conviction can be expunged from a record. The following offenses are not expungable:

  • Convictions for sex crimes
  • Convictions for offenses that harmed or threatened public safety
  • Class 1,2, and 3 felonies
  • DUIs
  • Domestic violence and domestic harassment
  • Certain misdemeanor and Class A or Class B traffic infractions
  • Crimes involving commercial driver’s licenses

Individuals with criminal records may request that their records be sealed if the charges were dismissed, didn’t result in a conviction, or ended with an acquittal or a pardon. Sealing records are also possible for those who complete a diversion agreement or a deferred judgment and sentence, resulting in dismissed charges. For other criminal convictions, individuals may request their records be sealed after a waiting period. The length of the waiting period depends on the severity of the crime.