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Expungement & Record Sealing
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If you have been arrested in Illinois, regardless of whether the case was dismissed or there is a not guilty, you have a criminal record. This record is accessible to the public and potential employers unless it is expunged or sealed. In Illinois, there are three ways to clear your Illinois criminal record: expunge, seal, or Governor’s Pardon.
A person’s Illinois criminal record is never cleared automatically, rather the person has to petition the court for records to be expunged or sealed. The court evaluates the petition by weighing the harm to a person with the record against the harm to the public in taking away access to that person’s record. If the judge finds that the harm to the person is greater, the judge will order the record to be either expunged or sealed.
When a record is expunged, it is erased as if it never existed. The judge of the county where the arrest occurred orders the arresting agency (for example, Chicago Police), the Illinois State Police and the FBI to return all original records of all arrests, original fingerprints and mug shots. Any internal computer records must be destroyed and removed from any public access system. Essentially, expungement means that the case did not happen.
In Illinois, only individuals who have never been convicted of a criminal offense or municipal ordinance violation are eligible to expunge their criminal record. A conviction means any finding of guilt, including a guilty plea, a guilty finding, and a guilty verdict, that results in regular probation, conditional discharge, fine, time served, or a sentence of incarceration. You also can’t expunge anything if you have more than one arrest on your record. Felonies are not eligible for expungement unless they were a class four drug charge.
Under Illinois law, certain criminal offenses, including a DUI supervision, may not be expunged from a criminal record. If you do not qualify for an expungement, you may be eligible to seal your criminal record. When a record is sealed, only law enforcement may view it. The general public, including potential employers, may not access it.
To be eligible for sealing of a conviction record in Illinois one must have been sentenced to supervision. A waiting period of 3 years is also required, beginning at the time of discharge from supervision, where no convictions were entered. Your record can also be sealed if you were convicted of a misdemeanor and have not been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor for 4 years after completing your last sentence.
Some misdemeanors are ineligible for sealing, such as violent crimes, sexual crimes, and DUI. All felony convictions are ineligible for sealing except for Class 4 felony drug possession and prostitution offenses.
If you do not qualify for sealing, then your only option is to seek a pardon from the Governor through executive clemency. Executive clemency allows you to expunge your criminal record. In Illinois, it is very rare for the Governor to grant executive clemency.
Do not let your prior arrest record come back to haunt you and prevent you from employment opportunities, access to credit, adoption and education. If you have a criminal record that you want to get rid of do not hesitate to contact us for a recommendation. All the lawyers we recommend have years of experience dealing with expungements and record sealing.