A criminal record in Colorado begins when a person is arrested. From that point, law enforcement agencies document that person’s offense and the record is updated as the person goes through the justice and court system.
Colorado law has a strong public records code, which makes accessing criminal records in the state fairly easy. The Colorado Open Records Act gives people the ability to access criminal records online through the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and criminal court records online through the Colorado Judicial Branch. While many states are moving towards this kind of digital, searchable system, it’s not available in every state.
What is a criminal record?
A criminal record is an official document detailing a person’s criminal convictions, pending criminal cases, prior arrests, and other interactions with law enforcement agencies. Additional names for a criminal record include criminal history record, rap sheet, and police record.
As with marriage records and court records, criminal records are generally public records in the United States and can be accessed through a criminal background check. However, public access to specific criminal record information varies from state to state.
In the State of Colorado, criminal records are kept in an online database and are easily available to the public. By knowing several state-run website addresses, which are listed below, anyone can access criminal records. However, it’s important to note that searching for criminal records or criminal court cases is not free. In both cases, there are fees associated with searching and viewing records.
Why would someone access a criminal record?
There are many reasons to access a criminal record.
- Most commonly, people search criminal records as a way to run a background check on a particular person.
- They’re also used by law enforcement to identify or locate people involved in unsolved crimes or by the court system to determine an appropriate sentence after a conviction.
- An individual may want to access his or her own record as well. It’s not uncommon for people to request their own criminal records to see what information is public.
- In some cases, a record could be inaccurate or include outdated information. If that’s the case, it’s important to have the record corrected.
What is included in a Colorado criminal record?
As criminal records are kept by law enforcement agencies at all levels of government in the United States, a Colorado criminal record may vary in format and content depending on the law enforcement database from which it is accessed.
Generally, a Colorado criminal record will include the following information:
- A person’s full name and possible aliases
- Personal information such as age, date of birth, sex, ethnicity, height, weight, and other physical characteristics
- Fingerprints and mugshot
- Misdemeanor criminal offenses and conviction records
- Felony criminal offenses and convictions
- Traffic records
- Past and outstanding arrest warrants
- Prior arrests
- Pending and dismissed charges
What’s the difference between an infraction, misdemeanor, and felony?
When you access a criminal record, the person listed on the record may have an offense listed. Criminal offenses are usually broken into three categories: Infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.
An infraction is a minor violation, a misdemeanor is more serious, and a felony is the most serious type of crime.
To better understand the information listed on a criminal record, here’s a quick overview of each offense and its severity:
- Infraction: A small traffic violation or littering are considered infractions. An infraction is a minor violation of the law. Usually, punishments are a warning or a fine. Typically, no jail time is associated with an infraction.
- Misdemeanor: If someone were to get a DUI or a drug violation, it’s considered a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is more serious than an infraction but less severe than a felony. Jail time of less than a year or probation are usually associated with these types of crimes. Likely, the offender will do time in a local or county jail.
- Felony: Murder, rape, and arson are considered felony charges. A felony is the most serious type of crime. Offenders are typically sentenced to jail for more than a year and are likely held in a state or federal facility.
What is the difference between a Colorado arrest record and a Colorado criminal record?
An arrest record is an official document including the details of a specific arrest. A criminal record is a more comprehensive document that includes a person’s entire criminal background known to law enforcement agencies.
Both types of documents are usually public records in the United States, although information about specific arrests may be sealed and rendered inaccessible to the public for a variety of reasons.
Whether an arrest record or a criminal record is accessed, the information listed is for state crimes only. If a person is involved in a federal crime, this information is not listed on a state record.
How do I search for a Colorado criminal record?
To find a criminal record in Colorado, a person or agency can conduct an online search through the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. This agency within the Colorado Department of Public Safety is responsible for maintaining and updating a central repository of records.
To use the website, a person’s name and birthdate must be entered. If it’s known, a social security number is also helpful.
To run a search, an account must be set up first. And, expect to pay a non-refundable $5 fee for every search conducted.
The state’s records provide information on any criminal act that a person was fingerprinted for. The records won’t provide any crimes that a person wasn’t fingerprinted for, like a traffic violation, for example.
There may also be some records that aren’t open to the public including warrant information, juvenile records, or any records that are sealed.
How do I obtain a physical copy of a Colorado criminal record?
The best way to obtain a physical copy of a Colorado criminal record is to visit the Colorado Bureau of Investigation online database, search the criminal justice records, and print it from the portal.
A person can also call the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to request a printed copy of a record at 303-239-4208. The staff can mail a copy of the records or email it to a specified address. You can visit a local law enforcement agency for assistance, but due to the Coronavirus, in-person visits may be limited.
How do I search for Colorado criminal case court records?
Accessing Colorado criminal court case records is fairly easy. The Colorado Judicial Branch created CoCourts.com, a searchable database, to give the public easy access to court records. Each search costs $7. Court documents are searched by name or case number.
This website, while helpful, does not provide access to trial court case records or copies of any records. Someone looking for trial court case records from the district court or county court must speak with the clerk of court in the courthouse where the case was heard. The clerk can take requests over the phone or in-person, however, many public offices are limiting the number of in-person visits due to COVID-19.
Anyone who plans to visit a courthouse to access Colorado court records, especially in populated cities like Denver, should call ahead to inquire about business hours and new regulations that are in place due to the pandemic.
Does Colorado allow criminal records to be sealed or expunged?
Colorado does allow criminal records to be sealed or expunged, but not all records are eligible. A record could be expunged, or hidden from public view if the offense is minor. Municipal violations, petty offenses, or crimes involving controlled substances can be expunged.
If a person was arrested but not charged with a crime, or arrested and charged but not convicted, the records could be sealed.
Cases of mistaken identity can be expunged as well. Records should be expunged within 90 days of the arrest date.
For a record to be expunged, an attorney must petition the court for the action to take place. If a judge grants the petition, the record containing that information must be destroyed.
It’s important to remember that expungement is not an option for all criminal records. Only certain records are eligible.
How can I have false information on a Colorado criminal record corrected?
Individuals can search for their own criminal records. In the event that the record comes back with inaccurate information from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, it can be disputed. To do so, a person can call the bureau at 303-239-4208. The department will likely ask that you make a formal, written request and specify what the inaccuracies are.
A report may have discrepancies or outdated information as well. Some information may contradict itself since different agencies report different pieces of information.
If there’s anything incorrect on a Colorado criminal record, it’s important to go through the proper channels to have it corrected.
How long are Colorado criminal records kept on file?
Records in Colorado are updated regularly and kept forever. Any criminal conviction, whether it’s a misdemeanor or a felony, stays on a record indefinitely. The state maintains the records in its database and only removes records if they’re expunged or sealed by a judge.