700k Illinois Cannabis Records to Be Expunged – Many Automatically
In 2019, Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker House signed several house bills that legalized the recreational use of marijuana and allowed the state to expunge certain individuals’ marijuana possession arrest and conviction records.
For now, we’re going to look at the ones that affected 20 ILCS 2630, the Criminal Identification Act, which concerns the expungement of arrest and conviction records. Some expungements were automatic.
So, how did that work? What about the ones that weren’t automatic? What does expunge mean, anyway? Let’s examine what’s going on before we get ahead of ourselves.
Is Expunging an Illinois Marijuana Possession Arrest or Conviction Even Important?
When people fill out applications for employment, financial aid, loans, professional licenses, housing, and other important matters, there’s oftentimes a section that asks about arrests or criminal convictions and sometimes both.
For most people, those sections mean nothing. However, for those with arrest and/or conviction records, they’re horrible. It presents a lose-lose situation. Respond truthfully and face rejection for honesty. Respond falsely and face rejection for dishonesty.
So, if you or someone you love has a marijuana arrest or conviction record, it’s extremely important.
What Does “Expunge” Mean under IL Law?
While the Clerk of Courts Act is fairly detailed in its description of the manner by which a clerk of the courts maintains records, you may be surprised to learn that as of the date of this writing, Illinois law doesn’t actually provide an exact definition of expungement.
Low-Level Cannabis Convictions to Be Hidden from Public View
There are rumors however that this is being addressed. When legislation is finalized, the laws will essentially (supposedly) state that the public will not have access to an arrested or convicted individual’s name.
At least, that’s what government representatives, investigative reporters, and legal analysts told us they would do. It’s what Governor Pritzker claimed would take place on December 31, 2019, when he granted 11,017 misdemeanor expungements for individuals with low-level cannabis convictions.
Still, what did the governor mean by “low-level cannabis convictions?”
Automatic Expungement of Arrest Records in Illinois
If police arrested you for possessing less than an ounce (e.g., up to 30 grams of marijuana) the Illinois State police will automatically expunge those records. Neither the public nor law enforcement will be able to access your information.
You do not have to do anything at all for this to happen. Once a record is expunged, the court clerk will forward a notice to the individual’s last known address.
Adding these automatic arrest expungements to the misdemeanor expungements Governor Pritzker granted on December 31st, the state estimated that more than 700,000 records would receive an automatic expungement. This “automatic” process, though, could take up to six years.
Important Expungement Dates
Because of this, the state-imposed deadlines for when automatically expunged records must be cleared. Those dates are as follows:
- Records created prior to January 1, 2020, but on or after January 1, 2013, shall be expunged prior to January 1, 2020
- Records created prior to January 1, 2013, but on or after January 1, 2020, shall be expunged prior to January 1, 2023
- Records created prior to January 1, 2000, shall be expunged prior to January 1, 2025
The Illinois State Police believe they will be able to complete all of the expungements before 2025.
Illinois Expungement by Petition
Those whose convictions concern possession between 30 and 500 grams of cannabis are not eligible for automatic expungement. If you are in that situation, you can petition or ask the court to expunge your record.
You must first have completed all your sentence obligations, including parole or probation requirements and supervision orders.
An experienced Illinois expungement attorney can guide you through this process if you need help.
Not Every Marijuana Arrest or Conviction is Eligible for Automatic Expungement
Automatic expungement does not apply to marijuana-related arrests and convictions associated with arrests and/or convictions for:
- Animal abuse
- Violent sexual crimes
- Any crime resulting that requires registration as a Sex Offender
- Local Ordinance Violations
What Ultimately Happens with Your Illinois Marijuana Records?
So, in general, if your offense involved small amounts of cannabis, you’re likely a part of the automatic expungement pool and for offenses with higher amounts or other circumstances to consider, you may have to petition. And in a handful of scenarios, you may not be eligible at all.
For those with arrests and/or convictions for any kind of marijuana possession charge left wondering what will happen in your specific situation, our best advice? Seek out an experienced Illinois criminal attorney.
He or she will be able to help you make sense of your situation and let you know where you stand, what you need to do, and what you should expect. Otherwise, you may end up spending days, months, or even years wondering and guessing.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes.