It is the dreaded question on a job application: Have you ever been arrested for a crime? This one question alone can quickly turn a promising opportunity into a moot point, as the employer suddenly glosses over the rest of your resume and credentials.
But did you know there is a way to answer no to this question? As long as your file has been properly sealed, the incident will no longer appear on most background checks and by law most potential employers cannot ask you about sealed criminal records. This opens up a world of possibilities for you when it comes to employment and housing.
You need to take specific affirmative steps to make sure that your records are properly sealed. Do not just assume that anything is going to clear itself or come clean from your record — it will not.
No. 1: Read up on the law as it pertains to file sealing
The Colorado Judicial Branch provides information on file sealing. As you will quickly see, the rules are very specific and can be somewhat confusing. This is a big part of the reason that the instructions clearly state, in bold: If you do not understand this information, please contact an attorney. It is advisable to have an attorney help you with your file sealing. Fixing an incomplete or incorrectly completed file sealing can be time-consuming and expensive, and it is better to make sure that your case is sealed the first time.
You are attempting to do something that can greatly impact the rest of your life and your livelihood. It’s imperative that you get this right and an attorney is someone who knows exactly what needs to happen to make sure your file is actually sealed.
No. 2: Figure out if your case is eligible for file sealing
Not all cases are eligible for file sealing. To qualify, it must meet one of the following requirements:
- Upon completion of a deferred judgment
- If your case was dismissed outright by the prosecutor
- If you were acquitted at trial
- You were arrested, but not charged
- You pled guilty to or were otherwise convicted of certain qualifying petty offenses, municipal offenses, or drug offenses and the correct number of years has passed since your conviction
Of course, this list is not set in stone and there are exceptions. For example, if your case was dismissed as part of a plea deal in another case, you will not qualify. The same is true if you still owe fines, fees or still need to complete court-ordered stipulations. All of these things need to be handled prior to attempting to seal your file. If you do not know whether or not you are eligible to have the records of a particular case sealed, you should contact an attorney and consult with them.
No. 3: Ensure that your record is truly sealed
It’s unfortunate – but true. You may think that your file is sealed, when it’s really not. This problem often occurs when the court has issued an order to seal the records of a case, but the order to seal has not been transmitted to one or more agencies that possess records of the case. This is another reason why it’s a good idea to hire an attorney who you truly trust and who takes file sealing seriously. You will want to make sure that every single agency or entity who has a file on your case has sealed this file. If not, you could wind up in the situation where you say “no” to having something on your record, only for it to still be discovered.