Record Expungement and Sealing in Illinois
If you have ever been arrested, charged, placed on probation or convicted, you have a record. Even an arrest that did not lead to criminal charges, or a case that was dismissed, will be on your record. There is no set amount of time after which these are automatically erased.
You have to take action if you want to clear or clean up your record. There are many reasons to seal or expunge arrests and criminal case outcomes. It can have an impact on anything from employment to a child custody case.
Sealing a record hides it from most people. Law enforcement and certain employers can still view it, but most employers and members of the general public will not be able to access the information without a court order. Expunging a record actually eliminates it, although law enforcement may still be able to see it in some cases.
Not every record can be sealed or expunged. It depends on the type or case, the outcome of the case, and whether you have any convictions on your record.
Expungement allows you to eliminate records of cases that were dismissed, cases where you were found not guilty, or cases where you received court supervision.
Expungement is only available if you were not convicted and you have no other convictions on your record. If you have a conviction on your record, the entire record is ineligible for expungement (although you may be able to seal portions of your record). If your case ended with you paying fines, being placed on probation, or if you received a conditional discharge, it’s likely a conviction and cannot be expunged.
There are some cases where supervision counts as a conviction and prevents expungement. If you received court supervision for reckless driving, DUI, or a sexual offense against a minor, you cannot expunge it from your record. However, having one of these shouldn’t prevent you from expunging other eligible cases from your record.
If you have a record, it will be on file with the police department that arrested you, the Illinois State Police and the FBI. When a record is expunged, the court instructs law enforcement agencies to eliminate your records.
Your case also is on file with the clerk of the local circuit court. When expunging a record, the clerk removes your name from any public record.
You should repeat this process in each county where you had an arrest. Be aware that although it’s officially expunged, law enforcement agencies will still have some access to your record.
If your case ended in supervision and is eligible for expungement, there is a 2 or 5 year waiting period before you can file a petition to request the expungement. The 5-year waiting period, which begins after you complete the terms of your supervision, applies to domestic battery, criminal sexual abuse, aggravated battery of a child, uninsured motor vehicle, suspended registration for non-insurance, display of false insurance, or scrap processor failing to keep records. The waiting period for all other offenses, including retail theft, is 2 years after supervision is complete.
If you can’t expunge you record, you may be able to seal it, or at least seal portions of it. This doesn’t completely eliminate your record, but it hides your record so that it can’t be accessed by members of the public, including most employers.
Most misdemeanor convictions can be sealed if you go four years without another conviction. There are some exceptions: violent crimes, sex crimes, reckless driving and DUIs cannot be sealed. You can seal municipal ordinance and misdemeanor records if you were acquitted, not charged, or if you received supervision and it’s been three years since supervision was completed. Unlike expungement, sealing a record is possible even if you have a conviction on your record.
Felonies generally cannot be sealed. There are exceptions, however. A few specific felony probations can be sealed. Also, you can seal certain Class 4 felonies (prostitution, possession of cannabis, possession of a controlled substance, offenses under the Methamphetamine Precursor Control Act, offenses under the Steroid Control Act, theft, retail theft, deceptive practices, forgery, and possession of burglary tools) and certain Class 3 felonies (theft, retail theft, deceptive practices, forgery, and possession with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance). Before requesting to seal these felonies, there is a waiting period of four years from the completion of sentence.
If your felony does not qualify for sealing, you may still be able to seal other eligible items on your record.
When a record is sealed, law enforcement agencies and the court clerk seal their files and take your name off any electronic database so that it doesn’t come up in an electronic records search. However, it’s not entirely hidden. Law enforcement agencies can still access sealed records. Certain employers may have access to sealed records, such as police departments, hospitals, schools and other jobs involving children, etc. Members of the general public can only view a sealed record if they get a court order.
In Illinois, a DUI conviction, including court supervision, cannot be sealed.
If you’re looking to clear a felony conviction from your record, or something else that is not eligible for sealing or expungement, you can ask the governor for a pardon. Pardons are determined on a case-by-case basis, and it’s completely up to the governor. There are Illinois attorneys who have experience filing petitions for pardons. Granting a pardon is completely discretionary, and it can be years before you hear anything.
Some other things to keep in mind:
- A judge is still allowed some leeway in granting a request for sealing or expunging a record, and some requests are denied. In some cases, a judge may decide that it’s important to preserve a record of your prior arrests.
- Even if a police officer or someone at the courthouse tells you that something won’t be on your record, check it out. Go to the police department and request a copy of your record (rap sheet). And remember, even if your case is dismissed, it’s still in the courthouse records and can be accessed by potential employers.
- If you have a criminal record because of mistaken identity or identity theft, there is a different process for clearing your record.
- When an employer asks if you’ve ever been convicted of a crime, you can answer no for expunged and sealed cases. An employer cannot ask you whether you’ve ever been arrested.