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Frequently Asked Questions About Record Sealing and Expungement in Illinois

What are my options for clearing my record?

Sealing your record hides it from the general public. It will be hidden from employers doing background checks, for example, but not from law enforcement. Usually this meets the goals of most people.

Expunging your record physically destroys it. The standards for an expungement are much stricter than they are for sealing.

If you do not qualify for sealing or expungement, your last option is to seek a pardon from the governor.

Can I expunge or seal a felony?

Generally, no. Felony convictions cannot be expunged or sealed in Illinois. The only exceptions are some select Class 3 and 4 felonies, such as prostitution, some drug possession, theft, retail theft, forgery and possession of burglary tools. Your only option otherwise is a pardon from the governor. You can usually seal a felony arrest so long as you were not convicted and there is nothing else on your record.

I was arrested twice and the charges were dismissed both times. Can I get an expungement?

No. Once you have been arrested twice you can’t expunge anything. But you still can get your record sealed.

Can I expunge a traffic ticket?

No. You also cannot expunge records of orders of protection, or of divorce and other civil matters.

Can I expunge or seal a DUI?

Not in Illinois. Even if your DUI ended in supervision, it counts as a conviction in Illinois and must remain on your record. This is an exception to the rule, and the same is true if you get supervision for a sexual offense against a minor. Your only option in these situations is to seek a pardon.

Will my record be automatically expunged after a certain amount of time?

No. There is no such thing as automatic expungement. You need to file a petition and appear before a judge, who will decide whether or not to grant your request.

My case was dismissed. Do I still have a record?

Your arrest is still on your record, even if charges against you were dismissed. If you want the record of your arrest to go away, you need to file a petition to expunge it.

Does my past record affect whether I can seal or expunge a more recent incident?

Yes. In some cases, existing convictions on your record will prevent you from clearing a more recent case, even if the recent case would otherwise qualify for sealing or expungement.

What is the first step?

Get a copy of your criminal history, from the police department or law enforcement agency that arrested you and the county where charges were brought. You will need the details of your arrest and the disposition of your case (how it turned out), before you can file a petition with the court.

How long until my record is sealed or expunged?

It can take a while. The state has time to object, then you go before a judge. If the judge orders your record sealed or expunged, it can take several more months for law enforcement agencies to actually process the order.

How much does it cost?

There is a court fee for filing a petition to seal or expunge a record. The fee varies by county. If you can’t afford the fee, ask if there is a fee waiver form for you to fill out. There might be a processing fee from the Illinois State Police, and possibly the local law enforcement agency, as well. Lawyer fees depend on the attorney but can be as low as $500 for an expungement to many thousands of dollars for a pardon.

Where do I file my petition?

In the county where you were arrested and charged. You may be able to do this by mail if you don’t live nearby — check with the clerk of the court where you plan to file your petition. You may still have to appear on your court date, however.

Do I need to hire an attorney?

It is not required, but it certainly helps your cause to have an experienced attorney handle the paperwork, petition and court appearance.

Do I have to disclose my record on a job application?

No. A sealed or expunged record does not need to be revealed to a potential employer. However, if you have filed for sealing or expungement but the matter is still being resolved, you will have to disclose a conviction if asked.

My petition was denied. Am I out of luck?

Not yet. You can file an appeal with the appellate court, or first petition the judge to reconsider. Ask the court clerk for the proper forms, and note that you generally only have 30 days to appeal or petition for reconsideration.

If you have further questions, feel free to contact us at (800) 517-1614 or fill out our contact us form online. Speaking with one of our staff attorneys is free and confidential. We will help you find an attorney in your area with years of experience helping clients clear their criminal records.