QUESTION: Is it true that certain misdemeanor
convictions will now prevent me from legally buying, or even
possessing, a handgun or sporting rifle? Can my arrest record
be cleared if I was arrested but not convicted of such a
James M. Edwards, P.C.
1401 17th Street, Suite 330
Denver, CO 80202
FAX (303) 292-0924
ANSWER: Yes to the first question and most likely yes to the
During his term in office President Clinton
signed a crime bill that included new restrictions on gun
ownership. It used to be that a felony conviction would prevent
one from legally possessing or purchasing a gun. That was
expanded to misdemeanor convictions for domestic violence, no
matter when the conviction occurred or whether or not actual
physical violence was involved. You may have seen articles
about this in local papers or on the news because it has caused
some police departments to have to take guns away from certain
officers who had prior convictions for domestic violence. Some
of these convictions were several years old.
The law had a retroactive effect, it applied to
crimes committed years ago. Thus, even though that behavior did
not then cause a loss of gun ownership privileges, it has been
made so by this crime law.
Generally speaking, laws are not allowed to have
The legislature is not allowed to pass a new law
that criminalizes or punishes past behavior that was not a
crime before the law was passed. For example, if today the
legislature passed a law that said owning two cars is now a
crime, it could not enforce the law against anyone that owned
two cars before the law was passed. The law could only apply to
people who owned one car and then, after the new law was
passed, tried to own a second car.
Until this issue is resolved in the court there is
little one can do about prior convictions on the record.
However, if the conviction was eventually
dismissed after a successful period of probation then the file
can be sealed through the filing of a Petition to Seal
One can seal an arrest record, the court file and
police files if you were
- acquitted of the charge
- if the charge was dropped
- or if the charge was dismissed as a result of a
deferred judgment or prosecution plea bargain.
Certain records cannot be sealed, those
involving sexual assaults and traffic offenses are two
examples. If you were convicted the record cannot be
In most cases having the record sealed is a
routine matter and no court appearance is necessary unless an
objection is filed by the police or the district attorney.
Sealing a record has certain advantages, on
employment applications you are then allowed by Colorado law to
state that you have never been arrested or charged with the
crime if the record has been sealed. The reason for this is
that you should not have to reveal potentially harmful,
embarrassing or humiliating information that may have happened
several years ago where the result was that you were acquitted
or the charges were later dropped as part of a plea
You should talk to your lawyer about these issues
if you have prior arrests on your record but the charges
were dropped or you were acquitted.
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JAMES M. EDWARDS,
P.C. is a general practice law office with an emphasis on
personal injury matters and motor vehicle claims. The office
also handles traffic matters, criminal matters, insurance
questions, and consumer issues. The office of JAMES M. EDWARDS,
P.C. is located at 1401 17th Street, Suite 330, Denver, CO
80202, (303) 293-8191, Fax 292-0924.
Copyright 2008, James M. Edwards, P.C. All Rights Reserved.
No portion of this article may be reprinted or republished
without permission of the author. The article is meant to
advise the reader of general legal principles and trends. It is
not case specific legal advice. If you would like further
information, or would like to see a specific topic addressed in
a future article, please contact the author.