A new law in Colorado dubbed the Clean Slate Act will automatically seal non-violent criminal records without requiring a judicial order. This new law created by Senate Bill 22-099 (SB 22-099) is the product of strong support credited in part to the immense labor shortage facing businesses.
Colorado’s Governor Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 22-099 into law on May 31st, making Colorado the seventh state to do so. Clean slate laws provide an automatic process for sealing criminal records if an individual remains free of additional criminal convictions for a certain period of time. As of now, six other states, in addition to Colorado, have adopted some form of clean slate law, including Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Utah.
Under SB 22-099, arrest records that do not result in a conviction will be automatically sealed, as can all civil infractions after a period of four years following a final disposition. Petty offenses and misdemeanors can be sealed following seven years and felonies ten years from the final disposition or release from incarceration. Certain crimes will not be eligible for automatic sealing, which include crimes involving murder, sexual assault, violence, and robbery. The state’s law will also prohibit the sealing of records in cases where an individual still owes restitution, court fees, or fines. With few exceptions, SB 22-099 will prohibit consumer reporting agencies (CRA) from including these records in the background check reports that they provide to employers. The process of sealing records that qualify under the law will start in 2024.
By making this an automatic process, supporters of clean slate laws hope to remove the barriers which have often made it difficult for individuals to have their criminal records sealed, such as filing petitions with a court, paying fees, and in many cases dealing with complex laws which require the assistance of legal counsel. Similar to “Ban-the-Box” type laws which prohibit employers from inquiring into an applicant’s criminal history before issuing a conditional offer of employment, clean slate laws aim to improve the ability of those with a criminal history to attain employment. However, unlike “Ban-the-Box” laws which will still result in an employer seeing an applicant’s criminal history just later in the process, clean slate laws will seal these records so they will not be viewed unless an individual is applying for certain positions such as in law enforcement or the courts which perform FBI background checks.
The support for these laws has been strong both among community and business groups, and it is easy to see why. With employers facing significant labor shortages and almost a third of the US population having some form of criminal record, businesses will be able to access a large pool of talent who have long struggled to find housing and employment. These laws will continue to allow CRAs to provide accurate criminal reports, which employers can use to ensure the safety of their workers, property, and customers while removing old criminal records, which can create an unnecessary obstacle for these individuals.
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