Can You Get Your IL Criminal Record Sealed or Expunged?
If you have a criminal record in Illinois, it can negatively impact your entire life. A criminal record can limit your employment opportunities, make it harder to find housing, and even harm your ability to obtain a loan or credit.
Fortunately, Illinois law provides for the sealing and expungement of criminal records, allowing eligible individuals to move on from their past mistakes and start anew. The key word in that sentence, however, is “eligible.” You can only have your record sealed or expunged if you qualify.
In this post, we’re going to cover what it means to seal or expunge your record, who is eligible, and how the process works.
What Does “Sealing Your Record” Mean in Illinois?
Record sealing is a legal process that allows individuals to seal their criminal records from public view. Sealing a criminal record means that it will no longer be visible to the public, including employers, landlords, and financial institutions. In essence, a sealed record is hidden from view and is only accessible by court order.
Sealing is not the same as expungement, which involves the destruction of a criminal record. When a record is expunged, it is as if the arrest or conviction never occurred. Sealing, on the other hand, preserves the record but restricts access to it.
Who Is Eligible for Record Sealing in Chicago?
Not everyone is eligible for record sealing in our state. According to Illinois law, the eligibility criteria for sealing vary depending on the offense.
Generally, individuals with a single arrest or conviction for a non-violent misdemeanor or felony offense may be eligible for record sealing. Offenses that are eligible for record sealing here include:
- Minor traffic offenses
- Municipal ordinance violations
- Class 3 and 4 felonies
- Class 2 felonies committed on or after January 1, 2014
- Class 4 drug possession offenses
- Certain prostitution offenses
- Certain battery offenses
Offenses that are not eligible for sealing include:
- Most violent offenses
- Sexual offenses
- DUI offenses
- Domestic battery
- Animal cruelty offenses
It is important to note that even if an offense is eligible for sealing, there are additional criteria that must be met before a record can be sealed.
For example, there may be a waiting period between the completion of a sentence and the filing of a sealing petition. Additionally, individuals may need to have completed certain conditions, such as community service or probation, before they can be considered for sealing.
How to Seal Your Illinois Criminal Record
The process of sealing a criminal record involves filing a petition with the court. The petition must be filed in the court where the case was originally heard. Once the petition is filed, the court will review it and make a determination as to whether the record should be sealed.
The process of sealing a criminal record can be complex, and it is recommended that individuals seeking sealing consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney can help you understand your eligibility for sealing, prepare the necessary documentation, and represent you in court.
What Are Some Benefits of Sealing Your Criminal Record in Illinois?
Sealing your criminal record can have significant benefits, including:
- Increased employment opportunities. A sealed record can make it easier to obtain employment, as employers will not be able to see your criminal history.
- Better housing options. Landlords often conduct background checks on potential tenants. A sealed record can improve your chances of being approved for housing.
- Improved credit options. Financial institutions may consider a criminal record when evaluating loan or credit applications. A sealed record can help improve your creditworthiness.
- Peace of mind. A sealed record can provide a sense of closure and allow individuals to move on from their past mistakes.
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 handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes. His work has been recognized by Avvo, Expertise, National Trial Lawyers, and others, and he has been featured on countless news outlets for his experience and knowledge in criminal law.