A Colorado bill awaiting decision from Gov. Bill Ritter would allow people convicted of certain nonsexual crimes to ask a judge to seal their criminal records 10 years after completing prison time, probation or parole, wiping their pasts clean, says the Denver Post. Some say the bill offers the gift of a second chance. To critics, who imagine an employer’s unknowingly hiring someone convicted of embezzlement to keep their books, it strips away the public’s right to know. The proposal would reverse a 1988 law that shut down the process to seal criminal convictions in Colorado. Under current law, judges can seal arrest records only when there is an acquittal or the charge is dropped.
The bill under consideration by the governor says a person with a sealed conviction can check “no” to the question about criminal history on job applications. “It’s a very strong incentive for people – do well, and there will be a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Christie Donner the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition. After objection from the Colorado Press Association, lawmakers added a provision allowing the media to petition a judge to unseal conviction records. In the case of someone running for public office, for example, a judge would have to decide whether the candidate’s right to privacy outweighed the public’s right to know. The measure passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support, but its critics were outspoken. “I’m all for second chances,” said Rep. Ellen Roberts. “(But) that should be the choice of the employer and not because the government has blocked that information.” It is estimated the proposed law would generate $677,000 in filing fees and cost the state about $455,000 in court resources. Ritter has until June 4 to act on the bill.