COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Legislators in Colorado are responding to the District Attorney in El Paso County’s call to change state law when it pertains to sealing and unsealing criminal records after a dismissal.
On Thursday, District Attorney Michael Allen criticized the current state law after prior arrest records for suspected Club Q shooter Anderson Aldrich were unsealed more than two weeks after the devastating shooting that left five dead and many more injured.
Aldrich was previously arrested following a 2021 bomb threat in El Paso County that led to menacing and kidnapping charges. That case was ultimately dismissed due to a lack of cooperation from Alderson’s family.
The court records pertaining to that arrest were subsequently sealed per state law.
Initially, when asked the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office said there were no records regarding the 2021 arrest. Under current Colorado law, if a case filed in the state is dismissed, it's automatically sealed.
According to Allen, his office's ability to be transparent has limits and those limits are set by local and state laws. He called on legislatures to amend the current Colorado sealing statute.
“I’m calling for an amendment to that statute. That if a certain level of crime, I think it should be an F3 or higher, if it's committed, it automatically unseals prior cases, even dismissed cases, or if the district attorney requests the case to be unsealed, the court has to rule within 24 hours of that request. I think that would fix what happened here,” Allen said.
13 Investigates spoke with two Colorado State Representatives that sponsored the most recent 2019 Colorado State Law pertaining to sealing and unsealing court records.
Republican Colorado State Rep. Matt Soper said the law worked as intended when members of the public petitioned to unseal the records.
“Members of the public (can petition) the court to unseal a record because the public's interest in disclosure outweighs the defendant's interest in privacy,” Rep. Matt Soper told 13 Investigates. "Here, the court found that the exception prevailed. The law already allows for unsealing when a devastating crime is committed.”
“The mechanism was used by a consortium of media outlets here, very appropriately I think,” said Democrat Colorado State Rep. Mike Weissman. “The request to unseal was granted, again appropriately, because the Club Q shooting is manifestly horrible and presents a situation of heightened public interest. The mechanism in the law worked as it was intended to.”
Weissman says sealing and unsealing criminal records has worked this way for decades.
As for Allen’s suggestion to automatically unseal certain records, Weissman said the idea has merit, however, it’s not as simple as the District Attorney suggests and brings up several questions.
What kind of crimes will unseal past records? How are they determined? How much time does a District Attorney’s Office have to request for records to be unsealed following a horrific crime?