Colorado – a state known for its breathtaking natural beauty and unparalleled outdoor adventures. Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, it’s an ideal destination for hiking, skiing, camping and more. And did you know? Colorado has the highest average elevation of any U.S. state, with Denver (the capital), perched a mile above sea level. I could go on and on about the wonders of this amazing state, but I’d like to touch on Senate Bill 22-099 and the impact it will have on the background screening industry.
Colorado is gearing up to join the Clean Slate movement. Spearheaded by the Colorado Clean Slate Coalition, this initiative aims to address workforce shortages and minimize barriers to employment for individuals with criminal records. With the introduction and signing of Senate Bill 22-099 by Governor Jared Polis in May 2022, the state is taking steps in transforming its legislation and offering a fresh start to countless job seekers by automatically sealing records if certain conditions are met. This adds Colorado to the growing list of other states that allow for automatic expungement or sealing of records, including Michigan, California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and more.
This change will inevitably impact those who conduct criminal background checks in Colorado as it brings forth key changes to the way consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) handle sealed and expunged records. No need to fear, there is ample time to prepare as these changes will not go into effect until July 1, 2024. However, it’s never too soon to get informed, so let’s dig in.
Details of Colorado’s Clean Slate Law
Senate Bill 22-099 amends sections within Chapter 276 of Colorado Legislature.
Section 1 of 5-18-105 mandates that CRAs exclude such records from consumer reports, except in cases where state or federal statutes, rules, or regulations require their consideration.
Additionally, Section 3 of 13-3-117 outlines the criteria for eligibility in the record sealing process. The State Court Administrator is responsible for compiling a list of eligible convictions, including civil infractions, petty offenses, misdemeanors, and eligible felonies. The timeframes for eligibility are as follows:
- Civil Infractions: Cases with final disposition recorded within the court four years prior.
- Petty Offenses or Misdemeanors: Cases with final disposition recorded within the court seven years prior.
- Eligible Felonies: Cases with final disposition recorded within the court or all proceedings, supervision, or release of the defendant completed, provided ten years have passed.
Beginning July 1, 2024, the State Court Administrator shall compile the list of eligible offenses on a quarterly basis for misdemeanor, petty offenses, civil infractions, and drug convictions.
Beginning July 1, 2025, the State Court Administrator shall add eligible felony convictions to this quarterly compiled list.
During this quarterly process, the State Court Administrator, in collaboration with the District Attorneys, will prepare a final list of civil infractions, non-objected misdemeanors, and non-objected eligible felony cases. This final list will be sent to the chief judge for the judicial district of the case. Within fourteen days of receiving the final list from the State Court Administrator, the courts in that judicial district will enter the sealing orders. All orders for sealing records will be forwarded to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation by the State Court Administrator.
This bill expands the number of cases eligible for automatic sealing of records. It expands cases eligible beyond the original House Bill 21-1214 that was designed to seal certain drug related cases. Cases that will not be considered will fall under the ‘Victims’ Rights Act’, such as listed certain violent crimes and sex offenses. This will increase the number of cases eligible and will allow the defendant to have their case automatically sealed without having to pursue a ‘petition to court’ process. It is estimated that nearly 1.3 million people may begin to see their records sealed in this process.
What CRAs Should Keep in Mind
While this bill offers significant benefits to individuals with criminal records, it also has implications for CRAs and their End Users. Beginning in July 2024, we will see a surge in cases below the felony level that will be automatically sealed. This could cause discrepancies in reporting as some of these newly sealed cases may have been previously available to report. Subsequently, the felony level audit and eligibility process will commence in 2025, adding another layer of sealed cases that CRAs need to consider. As outlined in Chapter 276, 13-3-117, this process will be repeated annually.
As Colorado prepares to implement these reforms, it is essential that CRAs familiarize themselves with the amended legislation and update their systems accordingly to ensure compliance and provide accurate consumer reports.
If you have questions regarding this change or any questions about conducting background checks in Colorado, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team of experts.