If you need comprehensive Colorado background checks for employment purposes – or for more personal reasons – there are several things you should know. In Colorado and all other U.S. states, public records are open, so you can find information on any person in all of the following areas:
- Vital records
- Criminal records
- Court records
- Inmate records
Keep reading to find out how you can obtain information in all of the following areas.
Colorado Background Checks: General Information
The Colorado Open Records Act, enacted in 1969, states that anyone can request a Colorado public record. Most records, not all, are open to the public. This includes employers, but it applies to everyday individuals as well.
There are a few limitations, however. The Colorado Department of Public Health, for example, will gladly turn over birth records and other personal information to the individual they pertain to, but it is much harder for an employer or organization to get their hands on this type of documentation.
These open records include all writings, papers, photographs, and recordings involved in a person’s past. Exceptions are limited to juvenile records, sensitive information noted in mental health cases, and information that is protected under the statute of the state.
Documents that are sealed are not eligible for a background check, and a job applicant in Colorado can legally deny the existence of such records on documents that are sealed. If the applicant is asked about a crime or any other negative background check item, they do not have to reveal any information about that item before, during, or after being hired.
Colorado Bureau of Investigation
To obtain an official background check, most employers obtain their background checks through the Colorado Bureau of Investigation Department of Public Safety. This government organization offers several types of employment background checks:
- A name-based online search, which is sufficient for most positions. Cost: $6.85.
- A background check with fingerprinting. Cost: $50 or more.
- A background check without fingerprinting. Cost: $26.50.
Colorado Secretary of State
The Colorado Secretary of State’s office can provide some information for background checks as well. To acquire information from the Secretary of State office, submit a written request and a detailed description of the records you are seeking.
The more specific you can be in names and aliases, search terms, and dates the faster you are likely to receive your results.
Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies
Specific requests not offered through the Secretary of State’s office can be sent to a variety of reporting agencies via the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. The DORA Department Custodian can help you determine which division you should send your request to if you are unsure. Send your request in writing to the DORA as well.
The DORA fees are as follows:
- Photocopies: $0.25 per image for records totaling more than 20 pages. The fee $0.50 per double-sided page
- Staff time: $25 per hour for the first hour if the job takes more than one hour
- Attorney time: $30 per hour, which is not always necessary
- Retrieval of documents: $28 per box
Note that there is no fee for results that are less than 20 pages and take less than 1 hour to prepare.
The DORA will provide you with a cost estimate before proceeding with your search. You must approve this estimate before the staff continues their work. Sometimes an agency will require an advance deposit before further work takes place, and your balance will need to be brought to zero before the search results are sent.
Ban-the-box is a term that refers to the box on job applications that asks if an applicant has been convicted of a felony. Effective September 1, 2019, the Colorado Chance to Compete Act officially banned the box, meaning that a job candidate’s criminal history is not relevant until after he or she is deemed qualified for the job.
Colorado is 1 of 35 states that have enacted ban-the-box laws. In 2021, the law expands to include all employers, regardless of how many employees the business has. Two major features of Colorado’s ban-the-box law include the following:
- Businesses cannot advertise, nor may they post in writing (on applications or elsewhere) that anyone with a criminal history may not apply
- Businesses may not inquire about a person’s criminal history on initial application
Colorado employers are exempted from ban-the-box laws when the following situations apply:
- A particular criminal history applies to the specific job that he or she is applying for, such as an educator or healthcare provider
- The employer encourages those with criminal histories to apply, in which case those with a criminal record are welcome
What Shows Up on a Criminal Background Check in Colorado?
Colorado background checks will include basic information but can include more specific details.
A criminal record, which will be obtained for employment, contains the person’s name and aliases, the charges filed against the subject, and a detailed physical description including tattoos.
You may also see the following information on the criminal record:
- Date of birth
- Photograph or mugshot
- Current and past addresses
- Former arrest records
- Current and past warrants
Information that will not appear on a criminal background check includes the person’s Social Security number, names of minor children, email addresses, and account numbers to any financial institutions.
What Do Employment Background Checks Cover in Colorado?
One of the primary reasons employers obtain background checks on applicants is to see their employment history.
However, it is becoming more commonplace for employers to conduct background checks looking for the following:
- driving record
- criminal record
- credit history
It’s important to say a few more specific things about credit history. In alignment with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, employers are allowed to ask for access to an applicant’s credit report with the applicant’s permission. The applicant is then given the ability to verify his or her credit report and make corrections when it is requested or required for employment.
A credit report is required for employment in Colorado in a few instances:
- The applicant is seeking employment at a bank or financial institution
- The report is directly related to the job position
- The report is required by law for a specific reason, which must be shared with the applicant
If an applicant’s credit report is the reason for not hiring that person, the employer must disclose the reason to the applicant.
At this time, social media activity is not included in employment background checks, but the employer is within legal rights to research this information for themselves.
How Far Back Do Background Checks Go in Colorado?
Colorado follows the standard 7-year rule for most information covered in background checks.
Exceptions include the following:
- If the position offers an annual salary of $75,000 or more, background checks can go back further than 7 years.
- In situations where the employee will be responsible for the health and well-being of others, namely the educational or medical fields, there is no limit on how far back a background check can go. This applies to teachers, educational staff, hospital staff, home nurses, and nursing home staff.
How Long Will You Wait for a Background Check Take in Colorado?
Surprisingly, a background check does not take very long in Colorado. Colorado agencies included the DORA are legally required to release records within 3 days of a request.
This time may be extended (up to 10 days total) in “extenuating circumstances.” An example of these circumstances includes situations such as the request coming in during a legislative session.
Official background checks for employment filed with the CBI take a little longer. Employers are given a three- to a six-week window in which their results may be returned. This period can be shorter but is not usually any longer and very much depends on the number of requests that are being submitted at any given time.
How Long Will You Wait for a Background Check for a Gun in Colorado?
The purchase of a gun in Colorado from a private seller is not mandated – and truly cannot be. Therefore, there is no background check or waiting period to purchase a gun in Colorado if the sale is from a private seller.
However, if you plan to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer, you can expect that a criminal background check will be filled.
According to the CBI, it takes an average of only 8 minutes to determine if someone can buy a gun through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Within that time, a red flag will most likely come up if the person will ultimately be denied.
Colorado is one of 13 states that use NICS to perform their own gun purchase background checks rather than letting the NICS do the checks for them. This may be the reason for Colorado’s fast turnaround time.
If it takes the NICS more than 3 days to return results, the sale can proceed from a public seller, regardless of what comes up later in the NICS report. After the report is complete, however, the FBI has up to 90 days to investigate and return an official ruling in the event that the buyer is flagged in the system, even after those 3 days.