Friday, June 6, 2008

Governor Signs Criminal Record Sealing Bill

Many people don't realize that any time a person is charged with a criminal offense, regardless of disposition, a record is created in one or more databases and/or archives. This information can show up on background checks for job applications and the like. Governor Ritter this week signed into law HB08-1082, which makes significant changes to the law regarding the sealing of criminal records. Previously, a person could NOT seal the record of a criminal conviction regardless of the offense. The new law makes two important changes in favor of persons with criminal records. First, persons can now petition to seal the record of criminal charges dismissed as the result of a plea bargain in another case after waiting only ten years instead of the previous fifteen. Secondly, and more importantly, persons sustaining actual convictions for petty offenses, misdemeanors, or class 5 or 6 felonies for drug possession charges can petition to seal the record of conviction after ten years following completion of sentence. Please note that this second change applies only to possession charges and does NOT apply to charges involving the sale, manufacture or dispensing of controlled drugs. It also applies to drug offenses only--convictions for all other types of offenses still cannot be sealed. The new law is effective July 1, 2008.

Records can be sealed only upon court order after showing the requisite statutory period has passed, that the petitioner has committed no new criminal offenses in the interim and he/she has satisfied all requirements of sentencing, including payment of all monies owed the court. The ultimate decision whether to grant a petition to seal any criminal record still resides with the court alone and a petition does NOT necessarily mean records will actually be sealed. Issues pertaining to the sealing of criminal records can be complicated and competent counsel should be consulted.