Getting a Fresh Start After Serving Your Sentence
Many people leave prison with the goal of turning a new leaf, but few are able to effectively do so. With a criminal record looming overhead and impairing one’s ability to obtain a job, continue their education, or qualify for a loan, it’s difficult to fully move on from a criminal offense. Luckily, in certain cases, one can expunge their record and achieve a fresh new start.
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What Is Expungement?
Expungement is the legal process in which arrest records are physically destroyed. When a crime is expunged:
- The crime is erased from the defendant’s criminal record
- The defendant can lawfully deny ever being arrested, charged, adjudicated, convicted, or sentenced of the crime
- The offense does not show up on background checks
By expunging a criminal record, it’s as if the event never happened. However, not every criminal offense may be expunged. The only records that may be expunged are:
- Arrests in which the arrestee was mistaken for someone else
- Crimes committed by juveniles
- Underage drinking and driving
The steps one must take to expunge their record vary based on the crime.
Expunging Wrongful Arrests
If an individual was arrested because they were mistaken for someone else, and no charges were ever filed, it is up to the arresting agency to petition the district court for expungement of the arrest and records within 90 days of discovering the mistake. The court must then expunge the records within 90 days of receiving the petitions. Thus, there are no steps that the defendant themselves must take to clear their record.
In juvenile cases, the defendant must begin the expungement process after the mandatory waiting period. The waiting period may be:
- One year: if the defendant finished probation or had contact with police that did not result in referral to another agency
- Three years: if the defendant received an unconditional release from a commitment to the Department of Human Services or from parole supervision
- Five years: if the defendant was released from their sentence as a mandatory or repeat offender
If the defendant is found not guilty at an adjudicatory trial, a petition is entirely dismissed, or an individual completed a deferred adjudication, juvenile diversion program, or other informal adjustments, they may petition for expungement immediately. Additionally, there is no waiting period for those convicted of prostitution offenses if they can prove that they were subject to human trafficking or coercion to perform the crime.
To begin the process of expunging a juvenile record, the petitioner must first complete some paperwork. They will need to fill out:
- Petition for Expungement of Records
- Order for Expungement of Records
However, if the juvenile had contact with the police after their offense, but no case arose from it, they will fill out similar, but different, forms. Those in such a position will need to fill out:
- Petition for Expungement of Records for a Law Enforcement Contact Not Resulting in Referral to Another Agency
- Order of Expungement of Records for a Law Enforcement Contact Not Resulting in Referral to Another Agency
After completing the appropriate forms, the petitioner will need to file to paperwork with the court that originally heard the case.
Once the petition has been filed, the individual must simply wait. Most often, the court will grant the expungement so long as the petitioner is eligible and completed the forms correctly. Sometimes, however, a hearing will be scheduled before the court decides whether to grant or deny an expunction.
If granted, the court will send an order to expunge to every state agency that has a copy of the petitioner’s records.
If denied, the petitioner can petition for expungement once more after waiting an additional 12 months.
Juvenile Records that Cannot Be Expunged
While most juvenile records can be expunged in Colorado, there are some crimes that will leave a permanent mark on one’s criminal record. Expunction is not an option for those who were:
- Adjudicated as a violent or aggravated juvenile offender
- Convicted of a traffic offense
- Convicted of a sex felony
- Convicted of a homicide
Underage Drinking and Driving Records
Most underage drinking and driving (UDD) cases can be expunged. Defendants can pursue an expungement so long as:
- Their blood alcohol concentration was below .05% at the time of the offense
- They were not driving a commercial vehicle at the time of the offense
- They never held a commercial driver’s license
- They satisfied all terms of the UDD sentence, such as paying fines
- They have no other underage drinking and driving convictions
- They are at least 21
Once the defendant satisfies these terms, they may pursue an expungement of their UDD conviction by first filing the appropriate forms. The individual must complete:
- Petition for Expungement of UDD
- Order for Expungement of UDD
Once completed, the forms must be filed with the court that originally heard the UDD case. If the court grants the expungement, the defendant must complete the expungement process by mailing the order to the appropriate agencies. The defendant must send a copy of the signed order to:
- Colorado Bureau of Investigation
- Colorado DMV
- The district attorney’s office that prosecuted them
- The law enforcement agency that arrested them
- Other agencies that have a copy of their UDD records