My question involves criminal law for the state of: Colorado
Hi everyone. First off, sorry to be asking a question that seems to have been posed many times already. I've been reading similar posts for days now but still haven't been able to find an answer to my question, so I finally decided to ask it myself. Forgive me for the repetition.
Here's the basic info of my situation: I was stopped for shoplifting in 2006 at a Target in Colorado. I was not arrested, but given something like a ticket or citation by a police officer, and showed up for court at which time I plead guilty because I didn't know any better and didn't have a lawyer. I was convicted of a petty theft misdemeanor, I paid some minor fine to the court (I think it was like $200?), and did not have to do any community service or jail time. I also received a $200 fine in the mail from Target, which I paid immediately as well. The merchandise total was less than $100, and it was my first offense, ever. (If you need more information about the exact circumstances of the incident, I have included it at the bottom of this post, the sentence staring with an *, so that people don't have to read it if they don't want that much info.)
My question is this: I am now a senior in college, currently trying to apply to programs abroad for after graduation (they are language study programs, not affiliated with any college). Some of the applications ask the conviction question. Of course, I know that the best thing is to disclose the info. But I am a little confused about whether or not this thing is even on my record. I assumed it was, since I pleaded guilty and paid the fines, but I wanted to be sure. So recently I paid $7 to do a search on the Colorado Bureau of Investigation site - I used my social security # and everything, but no record was found. Does the search only turn up arrest records?? I am particularly confused now because I read someone else's post on here, who was in a very similar situation (same amount, first time, not arrested but got a "ticket"), and they said when they called the court the person told them that it was over and done with and would not be on their record....what?!?
Also - I know this is not ideal, but when I transferred to a different college (a major university) two years ago, after the incident, I lied on the application and checked the "No" box for convictions. Nothing ever came of it - I was accepted, and it's never been mentioned. So this is why I am wondering if it's actually on my record or not, since if it is and I lied wouldn't I have heard from the college about that? Or do colleges usually just ask that question for fun and not actually conduct background checks? Again, I know the best practice is full disclosure, but as I am applying for academic programs and not jobs, I am wondering if academic programs generally just ask but don't check - which makes me hesitant because, if that is the case then volunteering the info might jeopardize my chances of admission, whereas if I had just kept my mouth shut they would never have known.
I know this may make me sound like a dishonest individual since I am basically trying to find out if I can get away with not disclosing this info on my applications, but I really just don't want a one-time stupid mistake that had never occurred before or since that time to ruin my academic career. I learned my lesson and now I just want to go to school!!
Thanks in advance to anyone who can offer me any advice, it truly is much appreciated!
*Details of the incident: It's been a while now so I am a little fuzzy on the exact details of what happened, but I was definitely not arrested. Before I left the store a LP person stopped me and took me into the office. He then asked me if I knew why I was there, and in a moment of panic and fear I lied and said no. I was uncooperative and refused to say anything in the beginning simply because I was scared and didn't know what my rights were and afraid I would get tricked into something if I volunteered any information. Anyway, I remember him saying "Alright if you want to play hardball I don't have to be a nice guy, I can make this really tough on you" and then started asking for my information (he didn't actually ask to any identification, which I have read on other people's posts and still find really curious - anyone care to explain why not? how would they know if I had just given them fake information?). His intimidation tactic really freaked me out, so I fessed up and gave him my info. He then took pictures of the stuff, and told me that we were going to wait for the police to arrive to give me a...something (I forget the exact word he used). The police were held up that night, and 45 minutes later the guy let me go and told me the police would come serve me at my address at a later date, and I left.
The police officer did show up a few days later, and he gave me something that was like a ticket, and a court date. I went to court, and plead guilty. Looking back on this, especially after reading all of the stuff on these forums, I am pretty frustrated that at the time I was young and scared and had no idea what my rights were. If I had known that pleading guilty would result in my not being able to have the record expunged or sealed, of course I would not have done that. I was only 20, had just committed the biggest mistake of my life, and was way too intimidated to even think that I could plead not guilty to a judge when I was, in fact, guilty.* (Thanks for reading if you made it this far!)