Whether you have a long history of run-ins with the law or a mere blemish on your record from your college days, it probably feels like an elephant on your shoulders. If you have ever been arrested or charged with a criminal offense, you likely cringe and cross your fingers whenever you apply for a job, loan, or academic program. Background checks are becoming increasingly prevalent, even in situations unrelated to employment (e.g., potential suitor). If you are concerned about what a background check might dig up on your past and if you are wondering whether it can be expunged or sealed, this article can help. For more information, call us or submit an online form at Gerash Steiner Blanton, P.C. Our criminal defense team is happy to answer any questions you may have.
Are Criminal Records Made Public?
According to Colorado Open Records Act and other state laws, criminal records are public. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation is the state’s central location for criminal records. If someone is interested in learning about another person’s criminal background, they can obtain those records directly from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation through the Internet Criminal History Check System.
It is also prevalent to obtain criminal records through third-party websites. Sometimes, these third-party vendors make getting information easier than contacting the state directly. A requester typically has to supply the following information:
- The subject’s name, unless a juvenile; and
- The subject’s last known address.
Availability of records may vary among third-party sources.
What Information Is on a Criminal History Report?
A criminal record can contain various pieces of information, and how in-depth the report goes can also vary depending on the agency used to generate the report. How in-depth a search is will mainly rely on the requester’s identity. For instance, if a potential corporate employer is running the check, they may just be looking to ensure you are not a mass murderer and run a very broad, simple background search. However, if you are interviewing for the FBI, it is more likely that they are digging deep into your past to ensure you have an impeccable record.
Standard pieces of information found through a background check include:
- Type of offense,
- Date of offense,
- Offense level (i.e., was it a misdemeanor or felony),
- Disposition of the offense,
- Disposition date,
- Sentence details, and
- Sentence completion date.
Our lawyers can assist you with learning what might come up on a criminal background check in Colorado.
Colorado Chance to Compete (Ban the Box) Law
Colorado is one of 35 states which have adopted policies to decrease automatic disqualifications based on criminal records. Enacted in September 2019 and beginning on September 1, 2021, Colorado’s ban the box law prohibits employers with 11 or more employees from:
- Stating in an advertisement or on an application for employment that an individual with a criminal history may not apply, or
- Inquire about or require disclosing an applicant’s criminal history on an initial employment application.
Ban the Box is an effort to encourage employers to no longer require disclosure of convictions on an application. Notably, employers can still conduct in-depth background checks; the statute just encourages them to wait until after a candidate is deemed qualified to dive deeper into their history.
Colorado Clean Slate Law
Just recently, on May 31, 2022, Colorado’s governor signed the Clean Slate Act into law. The law requires arrest records, among other things, that did not result in a conviction to be automatically sealed beginning in 2024. Other criminal records that must also be automatically sealed under the Clean Slate Act include the following:
- Civil infractions four years after disposition,
- Petty offenses and misdemeanor convictions seven years after final disposition, and
- Felony convictions ten years after final disposition.
However, you cannot seal crimes of violence, no matter how long it has been.
You might be wondering, what does this mean for me? Enacting these laws is potentially a game changer for anyone with a spotty criminal record because background check providers cannot report sealed records on criminal history reports.
How Far Back Do Background Checks Go in Colorado?
Under Colorado law, there is a seven-year statute regarding how far background checks can look back. Under the statute, any arrest, indictment, or conviction records are not reportable more than seven years from disposition, release, or parole. However, there are a few exceptions to this general rule:
- The first exception applies to employee candidates applying for positions with an annual salary of $75,000 or more.
- Potential candidates for sensitive positions in the medical or educational field include educators in both the private and public sectors and medical personnel in hospitals, nursing homes, and at-home caretakers. These individuals are required to undergo background checks without a time restriction.
- All charges and convictions regarding child abuse, sexual offenses against a child, etc., must be reported on a background check, regardless of how long it has been since the violation occurred.
If you are unsure about the final disposition date of your past criminal offense, reach out to our lawyers at Gerash Steiner Blanton. We can assist with finding this information and guiding you with the next steps.
Costs of a Background Check in CO
If you are wondering how much a background check costs in Colorado, it will vary depending on the resource you are using. If you go through the CBI criminal history check system online, there is a $4.00 non-refundable fee per search and additional costs to access multiple records and results. You can also request court information, criminal records, and other documents from courthouses, county offices, and the Secretary of State’s office. However, each will have associated fees and can quickly add up.
Of course, it is 2023, and you can quickly jump onto Google and find a handful of companies offering free background checks, but it is essential to be mindful of these resources. Companies offering free checks may be able to provide only limited results and often advertise themselves as free upfront but later be riddled with hidden fees.
How We Can Help You
If you are curious about a criminal background check in Colorado and its implications on your life, contact Gerash Steiner Blanton today. As experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys, we will listen to your story and assess your criminal history. We will provide you with guidance and advice about how to navigate possible record checks and also assist you with getting your records sealed.