There is a short answer to this question. Sealing criminal records means they still exist but are confidential, and most people can’t see them. Only law enforcement and criminal courts can open sealed criminal records. Expungement, on the other hand, means that the records are destroyed or erased and dismissed in the eyes of the law, but not literally destroyed.
There are similar benefits
While sealing is not as drastic as expungement, both offer several benefits:
- Your record does not show up if a potential employer does a background check.
- Your record does not show up if you seek accreditation from a non-governmental professional organization.
- With a few exceptions involving certain agencies (like the FBI) or being under oath, the person initially charged and convicted can now say they did not commit a crime or were not charged. Even if they admit the expungement, they do not have to give background on what was erased.
- Those trying to secure housing do not need to reveal their past charges or conviction.
What can’t be sealed or expunged?
Felony convictions include level 1 drug felonies, class 1-, class 2-, and class 3 felonies, sex crimes, DUIs, and domestic violence can’t be expunged or sealed.
What can be expunged or sealed?
The state permits expungement for juvenile offenses and underage drinking and driving convictions. Circumstances vary, but Colorado courts will often seal misdemeanors and lower-class and non-violent felonies. Generally speaking, criminal records can’t be sealed until after serving a sentence and being released from supervision like parole. Those charged but not convicted can immediately petition to have the record sealed, but there is an automatic process to seal it when the court dismisses the case.
Consult with someone who understands the process
Citizens wishing to have their criminal record sealed or expunged can start the process by discussing the details of the case with an experienced criminal law attorney here in Colorado.