What is Sealing?
Colorado offers "sealing" of adult criminal records. Sealing does not destroy records, but it does make them inaccessible without a court order. Sealing is handled by the Colorado Judicial Branch.
Who is Eligible for Sealing?
Eligibility for sealing a record depends on the class and level of the offense.
To seal a conviction, the conviction cannot involve any of the following:
- Domestic abuse;
- A traffic violation;
- Certain felonies; or
- Certain drug offenses.
You may be eligible to seal the following convictions:
- Petty offenses;
- Drug petty offenses;
- Class 2 or 3 and any drug misdemeanors;
- Class 4, 5, or 6 felonies;
- Level 2, 3, or 4 drug felonies; or
- Offenses committed as a victim of human trafficking.
And all of the following must be true:
- You have no other convictions, other than traffic citations;
- You do not have any charges pending against you;
- You have paid all fines, costs, fees, and restitution; and
- You have waited the appropriate length of time, depending on the type of offense.
You may be eligible for Colorado's "simplified process" to seal arrests and nonconvictions if:
- You were acquitted;
- Your case was dismissed;
- You completed a diversion agreement; or
- You completed a deferred judgment and sentence, and all counts were dismissed; and
- You have paid all fines, court costs, fees, and restitution in that case.
You are not eligible to seal an arrest or nonconviction if the offense involved:
- A traffic violation;
- A commercial motor vehicle license or operation; or
- Underage ethyl alcohol, marijuana, or paraphernalia offenses.
If you are uncertain whether you are eligible for sealing, consult an attorney.
What Effect Does Sealing Have?
Once a Colorado court seals a record, it orders all other state agencies to seal their records. The record is not destroyed, but it is hidden from public view. The courts, law enforcement, and criminal justice agencies will always have access to sealed records. Other parties will need a court order to see a sealed record. If you are asked about a sealed record, you may legally state that there is no public record of that offense.
If you are convicted of another offense after a record is sealed, the court will order that record unsealed. Law enforcement may use sealed records to investigate, and criminal justice agencies may use sealed records to prosecute. Agencies such as schools, healthcare, and more that are required by law to do criminal history record checks have access to sealed records.
When Can I Apply for Sealing?
You can apply for sealing of a conviction only after you have completed your sentence. There are waiting periods that apply. You must count from whatever date is the most recent such as the date of conviction, completion of sentence, completion of probation or parole, or final payment of restitution, and then you must wait for several years depending on the offense. You can apply for one sealing every 12 months.
Here is when you can apply for sealing:
- If your conviction is for a petty offense or drug petty offense, you must wait one year.
- If your conviction is for a class 2 or 3 or any drug misdemeanor, you must wait two years.
- If your conviction is for a class 4, 5, or 6 felony; level 2, 3, or 4 drug felony; or a class 1 misdemeanor, you must wait at least three years.
- If your conviction was for an offense committed as a victim of human trafficking, you may apply for sealing at any time after conviction.
- For all other offenses, you must wait at least five years.
You can apply for sealing of arrest and nonconvictions any time after you are acquitted or the case is dismissed. In most cases, it is not necessary to file a separate petition. You may simply ask in court.
How Do I Apply for Sealing?
Here are the seven steps to apply for sealing of convictions:
- Get the complete instructions to file a motion to seal. To access the form and detailed information about eligibility, timing, and filing, visit the Colorado Judicial Department website here: Instructions to File a Motion to Seal Criminal Conviction Records.
- Get the necessary official documents from the court clerks and arresting agencies.
- Get your current criminal history record from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
- Complete all of the forms.
- Make copies of everything.
- Go to the clerk in the county where you were charged. You must file your petition, with the supporting documents with the clerk.
- Pay the fee. Depending on your circumstances, the fee could be $65. This includes $27.98 for offenses involving controlled substances, petty offenses, and municipal offenses and $29.44 for victims of human trafficking.
If you cannot pay the fee, you have the right to have the fee waived. To get a fee waiver, file a petition to "proceed as an indigent person." To access the petition, visit the Colorado Judicial Branch website here: Motion to File without Payment and Supporting Financial Affidavit or ask the court clerk for the form. File this petition form with the clerk. The judge will decide if you qualify for a fee waiver.
The court may hold a hearing on your petition. If the court does not hold a hearing, the court will notify you when the judge has made a decision. If the judge grants your petition for sealing, then you must notify the CBI and other state agencies. Send them copies of the signed order to seal. They have 30 days to comply.
To apply for sealing of arrests or nonconvictions, access the form on the Colorado Judicial Department website here: Sealing of Arrest and Criminal Records When No Charges Filed.