Having a criminal record is not an easy burden to bear. Even if you received a not guilty verdict or had your charges dropped or dismissed, charges and arrests remain on your record.
Unfortunately, explaining the black marks on your record can erect a serious barrier between you and the job, education, or housing that you want. Worse, criminal records are completely public. All anyone needs to learn all about your past transgressions is an internet connection.
Luckily, Illinois allows offenders who have been accused or charged with crimes to clear their criminal records. In some cases, individuals who have been convicted can clear their records as well, as long as they have proven they have been able to live without violating the law for a number of years.
If you would like a second chance at a clean criminal record, you may want to pursue expungement or record sealing. When the state of Illinois expunges an individual’s record, they completely destroy it and remove their name from the public record. Criminal record sealing is simply the means of making the records unavailable to the public. Employers, lenders, and potential landlords won’t have access to the criminal record, but law enforcement officials will still be able to access the records at a traffic stop or during an investigation.
Many misdemeanors, and some Class 4 and 3 felonies, are eligible for this second change through expungement or criminal record sealing. To see if you are eligible to have your record expunged or sealed, call a lawyer to start the expungement process.
If You Have Been Arrested or Charged
If you have been arrested, but were not charged with a crime, you can get your record expunged.
If your charges ended in any of the following results, you can get your record expunged:
- Acquittal (Finding of Not Guilty)
- Stricken With Leave
- Finding of No Probable Cause
- Charges Dismissed
If You Have Been Convicted
Those who have been convicted do not always qualify for expungement. Your eligibility depends on the specific crime that you committed. For certain crimes, only individuals of a certain age, or who committed the crime before a certain date, can get their record expunged.
Crimes That Cannot Be Expunged or Sealed:
- Driving Under the Influence
- Sexual Offenses (if committed against minors)
- Dog Fighting
- Indecent Solicitation of an Adult
- Public Indecency
- Solicitation of a Sexual Act
- Soliciting for a Prostitute
- Keeping a Place of Prostitution
- Distribution of Harmful Material
Crimes That Can Be Expunged, With Exceptions:
- Reckless Driving: can be expunged if committed before January 1, 2013, before an individual’s 25th birthday, and if the individual has turned 26 and not been convicted of DUI or reckless driving since
Misdemeanors That Can Be Expunged, Five Years After the Crime Was Committed:
- Operating an Uninsured Motor Vehicle
- Suspended Registration for Noninsurance
- Displaying of False Insurance
- Failure of Scrap Dealer to Keep Records
- Domestic Battery
- Criminal Sexual Abuse
Felonies That Can Be Expunged, Five Years After Completing “2nd Chance Probation:”
- Class 4 Possession of a Controlled Substance
- Class 4 Possession of Methamphetamine
- Class 4 Theft (at school, place of worship, government property)
- Class 4 Criminal Damage to Property (or Government Supported Property)
- Class 3 Theft or Retail Theft
Felonies That Can Be Sealed, Three Years After Completing Your Probation, Parole, or Sentence:
- Class 4 Prostitution
- Class 4 Possession of Cannabis or Controlled Substance
- Class 3 Theft or Retail Theft
- Class 3 Deceptive Practice
- Class 3 Forgery
- Class 3 Burglary Tools
Before these records can be expunged or sealed, you will have to submit a Request of Consideration. The Illinois Prisoner Review Board will look at the crime(s) that you are looking to get expunged or sealed, how long it has been since you were released or finished your sentence, and your behavior since that time.
Just because your criminal record is eligible for expungement does not mean that you will automatically be granted a clean slate.
More serious offenses (including Class 2, 1, or X felonies) may not be sealed, but may qualify for executive clemency and expungement through a pardon. In order to apply for this pardon, you will have to submit a Petition for Executive Clemency.
You may have to appear in court, although there are options for offenders in small towns to fill out the appropriate petition and get their record expunged through the mail.
This process has been simplified over the years in order to take the burden off of ex-offenders, but there are still roadblocks present for those who are trying to get their records expunged or sealed. Before you submit the appropriate petition, consult with an Illinois criminal defense lawyer about the best steps to take in order to get a clean state and a second chance.
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.