Expungement is a life-changing legal process for someone previously involved in a crime. Also known as expunction, it usually means that a court here in Colorado erases or seals a person’s court arrest and conviction from a court’s files. While this information may still be available to law enforcement and the courts and should be acknowledged under oath, the person is otherwise not required to admit or share this information with others. The arrest, charge or conviction is generally not a matter of public record.
There are also many types of juvenile expungement, which are called adjudications. Also available to young adults from 18-21, these can be particularly helpful for those with underage drinking, possession, driving convictions and lower-level felonies. This is not available for those charged with sex crimes or extremely violent crimes.
Why is it important?
While it may not seem like a big deal to have a criminal record, convictions have a way of following people around years after they paid their debt to society. Criminal records can also haunt upstanding citizens who made mistakes when they were young but still over age 18. Even those not convicted still have an arrest record, and expungement can also address this. Reasons for seeking expungement include:
- Job prospects: Employers routinely do background checks on potential hires, which may influence their choice.
- Education: Educational institutions will also do checks and may not offer admission, education opportunities or financial aid to applicants with a criminal record.
- Home rentals: Landlords will run background checks and either deny the application or perhaps require a larger deposit.
The expungement does not protect anyone looking for federal government work as a full-time employee or a contractor. Similarly, the FBI will often still have access to expunged records.
There are several strictly enforced requirements (including completing probation) for expunging a criminal record. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the conviction and the court involved, the expungement can occur from 1-10 years after concluding the sentence and related penalties. The process can take several days or several months. The steps vary but will involve:
- The individual requests a Petition for or an Order for Expungement of Records.
- The individual completes the petition and files it.
- The court reviews the petition and may schedule a hearing.
- The court grants the expungement and sends an order to expunge.
Guidance often necessary
As with any criminal law matter, it is in the individual’s best interests to seek guidance from an experienced criminal defense attorney. They can help clients with expungement and other criminal law matters.