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Colorado Laws Of Expungement: The Colorado Petition to Seal

What Is a Criminal Record?

If a person has ever been arrested and fingerprinted in Colorado, that person has a Colorado criminal record, which is a record of arrest, conviction and disposition history. This criminal record is commonly referred to as a “rap sheet.”

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in Lakewood, Colorado is responsible for maintaining all criminal records or rap sheets in Colorado. The CBI keeps track of arrests (anytime a person is fingerprinted by law enforcement) in Colorado only; state and local juvenile and criminal courts also send information to the CBI. After a case is adjudicated (decided), the court contacts the CBI to report the outcome or “disposition.”

Federal arrests and arrests from other states do not appear on a Colorado rap sheet. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) keeps a comprehensive list of a person’s nationwide arrests, both state and federal, and the CBI record has a notation of the person’s FBI computer code number.

A conviction is generally a guilty plea or a court’s finding of guilt for a “crime” or an “offense.” A “no contest” plea for purposes of criminal records is a guilty plea. Criminal convictions are determined by both the disposition of the case and the classification of the offense (infraction, felony, or misdemeanor). For example, if a person received a deferred judgement and sentence, commonly referred to as a “D. J. and S.,” based upon a guilty plea and successfully completed probation, the guilty plea is not considered a conviction.

A person can have a conviction even though the person never served time in jail. Court decrees of probation, fines, community service, or conditional sentences are all convictions. The disposition entry on a criminal record contains information about the type of offense for which the person was convicted.

Colorado’s Petition to Seal a Criminal Record

Any person in interest (party to the case) may petition the district  court to seal records by filing a civil action in the county in which any arrest and/or criminal records are filed. A separate civil case must be filed for each court case record you want sealed, unless both a county court case and a district court case were established as a result of the same offense.

Denver district court has specific requirements for filing petitions to seal arrest records and/or convictions. Please review filing information located on the Denver district court website.

Petitioning the Court to Seal Arrest/Criminal Records

You may only petition the court to seal arrest or criminal records if the defendant meets one of the following requirements:

  • All charges were dismissed, or the defendant was acquitted of all charges.
  • There is only an arrest record, and no charges were filed in a court.
  • The defendant had a case that was dismissed due to a plea agreement in another case, 10 or more years have passed since the final disposition of all criminal proceedings, and no additional criminal charges since the date of the final disposition of all criminal proceedings have been filed against the defendant.

You may not petition the court to seal arrest or criminal records if:

  • The Defendant has been convicted of an offense for which the factual basis involved unlawful sexual behavior pursuant to  §16-22-102(9), C.R.S.
  • An offense was not charged due to a plea agreement in a separate case, but 10 years have not passed since the final disposition of all criminal proceedings against the defendant.
  • A dismissal occurred as part of a plea agreement in a separate case, but 10 years have not passed since the final disposition of all criminal proceedings against the defendant.
  • The defendant still owes restitution, fines, court costs, late fees, or other fees ordered by the court in the case being requested to seal, unless the court has vacated such order.
  • The offense pertains to a class 1 or class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense, or to a class A or class B traffic infraction, or a conviction for a violation of driving under the influence §42-4-1301(1) or (2), C.R.S.
  • The conviction pertains to an offense concerning the holder of a commercial driver’s license or the operator of a commercial motor vehicle.

The court, law enforcement and criminal justice agencies will always have access to the file. The files are not destroyed. However, as provided under the statute, if inquiries are made by anyone other than a criminal justice agency, all agencies must respond that “no such record exists with respect to such person.”

Sealing of Records is Governed by Colorado Revised Statute §24-72-308.

24-72-308. Sealing of records.


(1) (a) (I) Except as otherwise provided in subparagraph (II) of this paragraph (a), any person in interest may petition the district court of the district in which any arrest and criminal records information pertaining to said person in interest is located for the sealing of all of said records, except basic identification information, if the records are a record of official actions involving a criminal offense for which said person in interest was not charged, in any case which was completely dismissed, or in any case in which said person in interest was acquitted.

(II) Notwithstanding the provisions of subparagraph (I) of this paragraph (a), arrest or criminal records information may not be sealed if:

(A) An offense is not charged due to a plea agreement in a separate case; or
(B) A dismissal occurs as part of a plea agreement in a separate case.

(b) (I) Any petition to seal criminal records shall include a listing of each custodian of the records to whom the sealing order is directed and any information which accurately and completely identifies the records to be sealed.
(II) Upon the filing of a petition, the court shall set a date for a hearing and shall notify the prosecuting attorney by certified mail, the arresting agency, and any other person or agency identified by the petitioner.

(c) After the hearing described in subparagraph (II) of paragraph (b) of this subsection (1) is conducted and if the court finds that the harm to the privacy of the petitioner or dangers of unwarranted adverse consequences to the petitioner outweigh the public interest in retaining the records, the court may order such records, except basic identification information, to be sealed. Any order entered pursuant to this paragraph (c) shall be directed to every custodian who may have custody of any part of the arrest and criminal records information which is the subject of the order. Whenever a court enters an order sealing criminal records pursuant to this paragraph (c), the petitioner shall provide the Colorado bureau of investigation and every custodian of such records with a copy of such order. Thereafter, the petitioner may request and the court may grant an order sealing the civil case in which the records were sealed.

(d) Upon the entry of an order to seal the records, the petitioner and all criminal justice agencies may properly reply, upon any inquiry in the matter, that no such records exist with respect to such person.

(e) Inspection of the records included in an order sealing criminal records may thereafter be permitted by the court only upon petition by the person who is the subject of such records or by the prosecuting attorney and only for those purposes named in such petition.

(f) (I) Employers, educational institutions, state and local government agencies, officials, and employees shall not, in any application or interview or in any other way, require an applicant to disclose any information contained in sealed records. An applicant need not, in answer to any question concerning arrest and criminal records information that has been sealed, include a reference to or information concerning such sealed information and may state that no such action has ever occurred. Such an application may not be denied solely because of the applicant’s refusal to disclose arrest and criminal records information that has been sealed.
(II) Subparagraph (I) of this paragraph (f) shall not preclude the bar committee of the Colorado state board of law examiners from making further inquiries into the fact of a conviction which comes to the attention of the bar committee through other means. The bar committee of the Colorado state board of law examiners shall have a right to inquire into the moral and ethical qualifications of an applicant, and the applicant shall have no right to privacy or privilege which justifies his refusal to answer to any question concerning arrest and criminal records information that has come to the attention of the bar committee through other means.

(g) Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize the physical destruction of any criminal justice records.(1.5) For the purpose of protecting the author of any correspondence which becomes a part of criminal justice records, the court having jurisdiction in the judicial district in which the criminal justice records are located may, in its discretion, with or without a hearing thereon, enter an order to seal any information, including, but not limited to, basic identification information contained in said correspondence. However, the court may, in its discretion, enter an order which allows the disclosure of sealed information to defense counsel or, if the defendant is not represented by counsel, to the defendant.

(2) Advisements. Whenever a defendant has charges against him dismissed, is acquitted, or is sentenced following a conviction, the court shall provide him with a written advisement of his rights concerning the sealing of his criminal justice records if he complies with the applicable provisions of this section.

(3) Exceptions. (a) This section shall not apply to records pertaining to:
(I) Any class 1 or class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense;
(II) Any class A or class B traffic infraction; or
(III) Any conviction for a violation of section 42-4-1301 (1) or (2), C.R.S.
(b) Court orders sealing records of official actions entered pursuant to this section shall not limit the operation of rules of discovery promulgated by the supreme court of Colorado.
(c) This section shall not apply to records pertaining to a conviction of an offense for which the factual basis involved unlawful sexual behavior, as defined in section 18-3-412.5 (1), C.R.S.
(d) This section shall not apply to arrest and criminal justice information or criminal justice records in the possession and custody of a criminal justice agency

II. Sealing Colorado Criminal Convictions

Only certain criminal convictions can be sealed in Colorado s of a change in the laws of Colorado in 2009. These involve only Colorado Criminal Drug Convictions

Guidelines for Sealing Colorado Controlled Substance Convictions

Any person in interest (party to the case) may petition the District Court to seal criminal conviction records by filing a civil action in the county in which the criminal conviction record is filed.

If you have been convicted of more than one offense in a single case, the conviction records may be sealed only if the records of every conviction resulting from the case may be sealed pursuant to this section.

You may petition the Court to seal criminal conviction records for an offense involving controlled substance, except basic identifying information, if you meet the two requirements listed below:

1. Ten or more years have passed from the final disposition of all criminal proceedings against you or you have been released from supervision concerning a criminal conviction, whichever is later;

AND

2. You have not been charged or convicted for a criminal offense in the ten or more years since the date of the final disposition of all criminal proceedings or the date of your release from supervision, whichever is later.

You may not petition the Court to seal criminal conviction records if you still owe restitution, fines, court costs, late fees, or other fees ordered by the Court in the case being requested to seal, unless the court has vacated such order.

Defendants convicted of the following offenses are eligible to petition to seal the conviction:

1. Any petty offense in violation of article 18 of title 18;

2. Any misdemeanor in violation of article 18 of title 18.

3. Any class 5 or class 6 felony in violation of article 18 of title 18 EXCEPT if the conviction was for the sale, manufacturing or dispensing of a controlled substance as defined at §18-18-102(5), C.R.S. or attempt of those offenses or for possession with intent to manufacture, dispense or sell a controlled substance.

4. Any offense that would be a class 5 or class 6 felony in violation of article 18 of title 18 if the offense were to have occurred on July 1, 2008.

An order sealing conviction records shall not be construed to vacate a conviction.

If you obtain a conviction of a new criminal offense after an order sealing conviction records is entered, the Court, on its own motion or upon the motion of any prosecuting attorney, shall order the conviction record to be unsealed.

The office of the prosecuting attorney may charge you for all reasonable attorney fees and costs relating to the petition to seal. Such costs will be payable prior to the entry of an order sealing the conviction records.

The Court, law enforcement and criminal justice agencies, or prosecuting attorney for any lawful purpose relating to the investigation or prosecution of any case will always have access to the file. The files are not destroyed.

Upon the entry of an order to seal and an inquiry in the matter, you and all criminal justice agencies may properly respond that “no such conviction record exists with respect to such person”.

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___________________________
H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
The Edward Building
8400 East Prentice Avenue - Suite 420
Greenwood Village, Colorado 80111
Primary Web Site:  http://www.HMichaelSteinberg.com
Colorado Criminal Law Blog:  www.Colorado-Criminal-Lawyer-Online.com
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