Everyone makes mistakes – especially kids and teens. Unfortunately, if those mistakes involved law enforcement, the record of these mistakes can follow them for years after they have served their sentence.
A college degree can turn your child’s life around and put them on a path to success. Criminal records, however, can prevent your child from getting that degree.
Colleges began asking applicants about their criminal history just over 10 years ago. Now, up to 80% of private colleges and 55% of public colleges ask applicants about their previous criminal history.
These statistics are naturally discouraging. Admitting that you have a criminal past can put you behind another applicant with a clean record.
Fortunately, reforms are being made, and there are ways for your child to avoid telling colleges about past mistakes. Don’t let a prior crime discourage them from their dreams. If your kid has a criminal record, take the following steps to increase their chances of attending college next year.
Discuss Expungement or Record Sealing with a Lawyer
Illinois understands that some crimes are a mistake that shouldn’t follow an offender for the rest of their lives. That’s why some offenders, especially former juvenile offenders, have opportunities to get their records expunged or sealed.
This means that the record will not be accessible to the public, including public institutions. Your child will be able to confidently “hide” their criminal past from the college that they want to attend.
There are, however, specific rules regarding who can get their record expunged. If your child meets these criteria, you can get started on the expungement process.
General Rules of Expungement
If your child was arrested and charged with a crime, they will have that accusation follow them on their criminal record. Fortunately, if they were not convicted, they can have the entire matter expunged from their record.
If they were convicted of a crime, they may still be able to have the conviction expunged. Illinois has specific laws about which crimes can and cannot be expunged, and how long the offender will have to wait before the crime can be expunged. For example, domestic battery is a misdemeanor crime that can be expunged five years after it was committed. DUI charges, however, cannot be expunged.
Expunging Juvenile Crimes
Was your child convicted of a crime before their 18th birthday? You’re in luck. Illinois has specific laws regarding juvenile crimes.
Class B and C misdemeanors can be expunged as soon as court proceedings have finished. All other crimes can be expunged five years after court proceedings have finished. The only crimes that your child cannot have expunged for their records are first-degree murder and felony sex offenses.
How to Seal Your Child’s Criminal Record
Expungement is not always a quick or easy process. Before your child’s record is expunged, you will have to file a petition. Not every petition will be accepted and result in expungement, especially if you represent your child (or have your child represent themselves) in court. The court may want you to present a case that shows that sealing your child’s criminal history will not result in further crimes.
Reach out to a criminal defense lawyer for more information on how you can get your child’s record expunged (and their life moving in the right direction) in a timely manner.
Support Rep. Barbara Wheeler and HB3142
Illinois is a “ban the box” state, meaning that employers cannot ask about criminal histories on job applications. Rep. Barbara Wheeler wants to extend that rule to schools.
She is the lawmaker behind HB3142, which would prohibit public colleges in the state from asking about or considering an applicant’s criminal history. The bill is still making its way through state Congress, so call up your representatives and voice your support for the bill.
Finish the Application
When your child lets a college know about a previous criminal history, it will not automatically result in a rejection. If your child doesn’t finish the application, they will never know if they would have gotten accepted.
Unfortunately, having a criminal record can prevent your child from applying in the first place. A recent study conducted by the Center for Community Alternatives showed that two out of three applicants who had to acknowledge a prior felony on their application never ended up finishing the application.
If you haven’t looked into expungement or record sealing, tell them to put on the brakes first while you explore that option. Even if they are not able to expunge their record, though, your child should still apply and put their name in the ring for consideration. Neglecting to apply is an automatic rejection.
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.