Last year Colorado’s business community joined forces with advocates for criminal justice reform in support of a new piece of legislation known as the Clean Slate Act. The Act was signed into law by Governor Polis in 2022 and is set to take effect in 2024, though many courts across the state have already begun implementing the new requirements.
The law requires certain non-violent criminal convictions to be automatically sealed by the courts after a specified length of time. It also includes automatic sealing of arrest records that did not result in a conviction, as well as records involving the completion of a deferred judgment or deferred prosecution agreement.
Once sealed, the criminal record can no longer be accessed by the public and allows employees to respond to any inquiries about a criminal record by stating it “does not exist.” Colorado had previously adopted a “Ban the Box” law, which requires employers to omit any criminal history questions on initial job applications but lets them ask candidates later in the hiring process. The Clean Slate laws, alternately, make it so that employers might not know about a job candidate’s criminal history because it will not show up on background searches.
Sealing Eligibility. For those who remain crime free, the new laws require a court to automatically seal:
- arrests that did not result in criminal charges;
- dismissals or acquittals, upon entry of the relevant order;
- deferred prosecutions or deferred judgments, upon completion of the relevant agreement;
- civil offenses, four years after the final disposition of the case;
- petty offenses or misdemeanors, seven years after the final disposition of the case; and
- felonies, ten years after a final disposition of all criminal proceedings or the release from incarceration, whichever comes later.
Crimes involving violence that fall under the Crime Victims Rights Act (VRA)– such as assault, sexual assault, and robbery – are not eligible. Colorado law also prevents record-sealing if the defendant still owes restitution, fines, or court fees in the case.
The new law further prevents consumer reporting agencies from making any consumer report containing the sealed records except in very limited circumstances. Such reports are often used for preemployment screening of job applicants.
The law was specifically designed to address unprecedented workforce shortages while minimizing barriers to employment for job seekers with a dated criminal history. The hope is that it will allow employers to tap into a vast, diverse and underutilized talent pool without worry of potential liability for hiring practices and will allow employees a fresh start in the job market. A win-win for employees and companies alike.