Automatic Record Sealing Law Signed in Colorado

In March, we discussed Colorado SB22-099. As introduced, it was aimed to automatically seal certain conviction and civil judgment records in the state. Governor signed the bill on May 31, 2022, with some changes from the original language. The new restrictions will officially become law on August 10, 2022.

According to the legislative summary, among other things,

“The bill extends… automatic sealing to all offenses, including civil infractions, that allow the defendant to petition the court for sealing criminal justice records that are not subject to the victims’ rights act.”

Crimes listed under the Colorado Victims’ Right Act are excluded from automatic sealing. However, with some exceptions, records that will automatically be unavailable will include:

  • Convictions eligible for sealing based on state law.
  • Civil infractions four years past final disposition.
  • Petty offenses and misdemeanors seven years past final disposition.
  • Eligible felonies ten years past the later of the final disposition or release from supervision.

The law also amends the Colorado Consumer Reporting Act. Consumer reporting agencies, including background check providers like Verified Credentials, will not be able to access and report certain criminal records. This includes sealed, expunged, and records that didn’t result in a conviction.

This could impact employers who complete background checks on candidates that may have spent time in Colorado. To begin, it could remove certain records for those that live in Colorado. But it could also include candidates that worked, went to school, or even traveled to the state.

Updated Sealing Process in Signed Law

The original bill language included details on the process for sealing records. The final, signed copy had a few updates on how officials should proceed.

1. That state court administrator is required to compile a list of convictions eligible for automatic sealing. Beginning July 1, 2024, the state court administrator will provide a quarterly report of eligible drug convictions, misdemeanors, and petty offenses. A quarterly list of eligible felony convictions is required beginning on July 1, 2025.

The state court administrator’s reports will not include:

  • Cases without a final disposition on all charges.
  • Eligible intervening judgments or convictions pending their wait period.

2. Eligible conviction records move on to each district attorney. The chief district judge of each receives the list of eligible civil judgments to seal with the final list of all eligible convictions.

3. Each district attorney has 45 days to file a notice with the originating court to object to sealing individual records. Eligible objections must be provided and may include:

  • A condition of the plea agreement was not to have the record sealed.
  • The defendant has a pending criminal charge.
  • There is an intervening conviction.
  • The record is ineligible for sealing.
  • For certain felonies, if the district attorney believes the public interest and safety outweigh the privacy or consequences to the defendant. This situation requires the district attorney to provide supporting documentation to the court. The defendant must be notified by the court and provided a hearing on the matter.

4. The state court administrator removes records the district attorney objects to from the list. They send a list of the remaining eligible convictions to each chief district judge for sealing orders. Once the chief district judge receives the final list, records must be sealed within 14 days.

While the law isn’t effective yet, it will proceed unless a referendum is filed. Employers that hire candidates with connections to Colorado may want to review the law with their legal counsel to determine how this might impact them.

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