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How Long Can a Criminal Charge Stay on My Record in Colorado?

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP March 30, 2022

Being involved in a criminal case in any capacity can have long-term consequences. Depending on the charge, the arrest can stay on your record even if you are not found guilty of the crime. In Colorado, it may be possible to have your criminal record sealed or expunged to hide it from public view. Otherwise, a criminal charge may stay on your record indefinitely.

How Criminal Records Work in Colorado

The criminal courts in Colorado record everything that happens to a defendant. Anyone who is accused, arrested, tried or convicted of a crime receives a criminal record. This record keeps track of a person’s criminal history regardless of whether the arrest results in a conviction. This includes if your case is dropped, dismissed or you are acquitted of the crime. Even in these scenarios, a criminal record is created. The arrest and charges will remain on the record for many different people to access, including landlords and employers, unless a request is filed to have it sealed or expunged.

Can I Expunge My Record in Colorado?

The answer to this question depends on your circumstances. In Colorado, only juveniles qualify to have their records expunged. Expungement essentially means that the crime never existed; the individual’s criminal record will be completely erased. If an adult wishes to clear his or her criminal record, the only option in Colorado is sealing the record. Record sealing is different from expungement in that the record still exists but is protected from public view. Only qualified agencies and individuals can view a sealed criminal record, including law enforcement agencies.

Not all criminal charges can be sealed or expunged in Colorado. For example, a juvenile who is convicted of a violent crime cannot have this record expunged. Types of crimes that make adults unqualified for record sealing include sexual offenses, domestic violence convictions, DUI convictions and certain traffic infractions. Class 1, 2 and 3 felonies, as well as Level 1 drug felonies, are also ineligible for record sealing in Colorado. In 2019, House Bill 19-1275, the Increased Eligibility for Criminal Record Sealing bill, qualified more people for criminal record sealing.

Waiting Periods Before You Can Seal a Criminal Record in Colorado

Criminal records are not automatically cleared in Colorado. The defendant must make a request to seal the record. Even if you qualify for record sealing in Colorado, you must wait the required amount of time to submit the request. The following are the minimum amounts of time that a criminal charge must stay on your record:

  • Petty offenses: 1 year
  • Drug misdemeanors: 2 years
  • Class 2 and 3 misdemeanors: 2 years
  • Class 1 misdemeanors: 3 years
  • Class 4, 5 or 6 felonies: 3 years
  • Level 3 or 4 drug felonies: 3 years

For all other criminal charges, a record-sealing petition may be filed after 5 years. All of these time limits start after the later date of the final disposition of all criminal proceedings or the release of the defendant from supervision. Keep in mind that simply filing a request does not guarantee that the courts will agree to seal the record.

Do I Need an Attorney for Record Sealing in Colorado?

A criminal charge could stay on your record permanently in Colorado. If you qualify for expungement or record sealing, this can give you a fresh start. You may only have to wait a few years before you qualify for record sealing. If you wish to proceed with a petition to seal your criminal record, hire a criminal defense attorney for assistance.

The District Attorney may object to the sealing, in which case you will need to attend a hearing. Even if this doesn’t happen, you may need an attorney’s help in filing the petition and understanding your rights. Learn more about record sealing in Colorado by requesting a free consultation at Dolan + Zimmerman LLP today.