New law will erase some juvenile records in Colorado

Published: May. 15, 2017 at 10:54 PM MDT
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It is now easier for teenagers to erase their criminal records in the Centennial State.

Colorado Gov.John Hickenlooper signed a bill into law Monday at Urban Peak, an emergency shelter for homeless teens in Colorado Springs. The new law gives teens a new start who have committed minor offenses such as stealing or selling drugs.

"We know that if youth have a chance, they will change their lives around," said Executive Director Shawna Kemppainen with Urban Peak. "This helps them get up a step in doing that."

Prior to HB17-1204 being signed into law, juvenile records were not automatically sealed or erased.

"Whenever you address an issue like this, you run the risk of people saying you're soft on crime," Hickenlooper said. "Or you don't care about public safety. In truth it's just the opposite. A bill like this allows us to give kids a real chance to figure things out."

“Because juvenile record are not automatically sealed or expunged, youth who have made past mistakes can become weighed down while seeking jobs, trying to get school loans, or even signing a lease for a place to live,” said Kemppainen. “About one-third of youth we see at Urban Peak have some past involvement with the criminal justice system. They want to move forward with their lives, and this change in law will make it more possible.”

The law will erase records for teens who were found not guilty or had their case dismissed. It will also apply to teens who finished their juvenile sentence for more petty offenses and misdemeanors.

According to the summary of the bill, a person who is adjudicated as a repeat or mandatory offender, violent juvenile offender, or aggravated juvenile offender; adjudicated for homicide or vehicular homicide as a juvenile offender; or adjudicated for a felony offense involving unlawful sexual behavior is not eligible for expungement.

The new law requires written notice of the right to expungement and of the expungement process to the juvenile. A prosecuting attorney cannot require as a condition of a plea agreement that the juvenile waive his or her right to expungement.