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Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
Former Cook County Felony Prosecutor

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Your Guide to Record Sealing and Expungement in IL: FAQs

Anyone who has been charged with a misdemeanor or felony in Illinois knows that the court process can be complicated. What many people don’t realize is that simply being arrested for a crime can impact your future, even if you’re never found guilty.

How is this possible? Because arrests go on your criminal record.

Criminal records are often inspected when applying for loans, places to live, and even a job. That’s why if you have a criminal record, it’s important to look into whether your record can be sealed or expunged in the state of Illinois.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about sealing and expunging records in Illinois to help you get started.

What is the Difference Between Record Sealing and Record Expungement?

The first aspect that’s important to understand is that sealing your record and expunging it are two very different things.

Expungement of a record means that the Clerk’s Office will take your name out of their docket systems and essentially impound the court files. Background checks available to the public will not see your criminal history. However, law enforcement agencies will still be able to see the records.

When a record is sealed, it cannot be unsealed by anyone without a court order. It is not accessible to the general public, either.

Your name is still erased from the Clerk’s Office system and your file impounded, but sealing takes this further. The process asks law enforcement agencies to also seal your criminal record with their agencies.

Is It Better to Expunge or Seal Your Record?

The qualifications for expungement and record sealing are different as well.

In order to be eligible for expungement, your case must have been dismissed, or you must have been acquitted of the charges against you. Any court supervision you may have been subjected to must be completed to the satisfaction of the court, as well as any probation.

To have your records sealed, the penalties of any convictions against you must be completed. This includes any conditional discharges, jail or prison sentences, probation, and boot camp.

A judge will not allow you to have a record expunged if it involves a DUI or reckless driving. Likewise, you cannot have a record sealed that involves convictions for stalking, domestic battery, DUI, order of protection violations, sex crimes, crimes against animals, or reckless driving.

How Long Do You Have to Wait To Have Your Record Expunged or Sealed?

You must wait in Illinois for a certain amount of time before you can petition the court to expunge or seal your record.

For expungement, anyone found not guilty or acquitted of a crime can petition for expungement immediately after the ruling, as long as there are no pending cases against you.

If a case is Stricken with Leave, then you must wait 160 days. If a case shows as Non-Suit, then the waiting period is 120 days.

Chicago Criminal Record Sealing and Expungement

Anyone placed under the supervision of the court can usually have their record expunged two years after they successfully complete supervision. Some offenses will require a 5-year waiting period.

To have your case sealed, you can petition the court three years after you complete your sentence. If you were simply under court supervision, then you only must wait two years after successful completion.

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. 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.

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