Can I Clear a Domestic Violence Charge From My Record?

The Leier Law Office LLC
Police handcuff on fingerprint crime page

Domestic violence charges can impact employment, professional licensing, housing applications, and even social relationships. More so, if you're convicted of a domestic violence-related offense, it could strip you of your constitutional right to bear arms, regardless of whether it's a felony or a misdemeanor.

Unfortunately, many people are falsely accused. A recent national survey conducted by YouGov revealed that eight percent of Americans—nearly 20 million people—reported being falsely accused of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, or other forms of abuse. 

These are serious charges that should not be taken lightly, and at The Leier Law Office LLC, we know that these circumstances can be daunting and difficult to manage on your own. That's why we're here to guide you through the process of clearing such charges from your record in Colorado.  

Sealing vs. Expungement: What's the Difference?

In Colorado, "sealing" and "expungement" have different legal implications. Here's how they differ: 

Sealing: This process hides your criminal record from public searches, such as background checks. However, law enforcement and prosecutors still maintain access to your records. Here are some key points about sealing your records:

  • Sealing renders your criminal record invisible to public view. 

  • It prevents most people from seeing your past encounters with the law when they conduct a background check. 

  • Prosecutors and police still have access to your sealed records.

  • In Colorado, domestic violence-related arrests and dismissals can be sealed, but not expunged. 

Expungement: This refers to the physical destruction of your criminal records. Here are some essential points about expungement: 

  • Expungement is the physical destruction of your criminal records. 

  • In practice, expungement serves the same purpose as sealing: to keep future employers, landlords, and most others from seeing your past brushes with the law when they run your criminal history report. 

  • In Colorado, the only domestic violence-related cases that can be expunged are juvenile offenses. 

The Dismissal Process of a Domestic Violence Charge in Colorado

In Colorado, if you're arrested for domestic violence and charges aren't filed within one year of the arrest, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) should automatically seal your record within 60 days. If you're charged with a domestic violence-related offense, and the court eventually dismisses the charges, the court will order your record to be sealed immediately and CBI will be given 30 days to process the Order. But remember, if you're convicted of a domestic violence-related offense, this matter is unsealable and cannot be expunged no matter how much time has passed. 

However, sometimes due to errors or delays at the CBI, eligible records may not be sealed automatically. In these cases, you can file a petition with the court to seal your records. This involves obtaining copies of your criminal records, completing a motion, attending a hearing, and waiting for the court's decision which could take days or weeks. 

Eligibility for Sealing Records

Determining whether your domestic violence charge qualifies for sealing depends on various factors: 

  • Whether charges were filed 

  • The outcome of the case (conviction, deferred judgement and sentence, or acquittal) 

  • The type of offense and when it occurred 

  • How long ago you completed all the terms of the sentence 

  • Whether you committed other crimes since the date of the domestic violence offense

  • Whether you owe restitution to victims 

There are different wait periods for sealing records based on the type of offense: 

  • Civil infraction, petty offense, or drug petty offense: 1 year 

  • Class 2 or 3 misdemeanor or a drug misdemeanor: 2 years 

  • Class 1 misdemeanors, Class 4, 5, and 6 felonies, Level 3 and 4 drug felonies: 3 years 

  • All other eligible offenses: 5 years 

Certain convictions are never eligible for sealing in Colorado, including Class 1 and 2 felonies, Level 1 drug felonies, crimes of violence, crimes involving unlawful sexual behavior, and more. 

How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Assist

Sealing or expunging your records in Colorado can be challenging, and that's where a skilled criminal defense attorney like Kent J. Leier comes in. Here are several ways an attorney can assist in this process:

  • Expert Guidance: An attorney provides valuable insights into the law and helps determine whether you're eligible for sealing or expungement. They can also advise you on the best course of action based on your specific circumstances.

  • Document Preparation and Filing: Lawyers are adept at handling the necessary paperwork, ensuring that all documents are correctly prepared and filed within stipulated deadlines. This includes drafting petitions and gathering supporting documentation, which can be cumbersome for individuals to manage on their own.

  • Representation in Court: If your request to seal or expunge records requires a court hearing, having an attorney represent you can significantly enhance your chances of success. They will argue on your behalf, highlighting reasons why your records should be sealed or expunged.

  • Tackling Complex Cases: For cases that aren't straightforward, such as those involving errors or delays at the CBI or those requiring appeals, an experienced attorney is crucial. They know how to tackle these challenges, ensuring that your rights are protected throughout the process.

  • Follow-Up and Compliance: After a record has been sealed or expunged, your attorney can help ensure that public records are updated accordingly. They can also guide you on how to legally answer questions about your past in employment applications and other situations, providing peace of mind.

In essence, a criminal defense attorney not only elevates your chances of having your records successfully sealed or expunged but also makes the process more manageable, ensuring that every step is taken correctly and efficiently.

Professional Legal Advice

Working through these complexities can be challenging, and each case is unique. Therefore, we strongly advise seeking professional legal counsel to guide you through this process. As your legal advisors at The Leier Law Office LLC, we are dedicated to helping you understand the process of clearing domestic violence charges from your record. With our extensive experience and knowledge of Colorado laws, we can provide the guidance and support you need to make informed decisions about your case.