In Illinois, a person gets a criminal record when arrested. This is true even if the person is not charged with a crime or convicted. Any arrest, whether a criminal charge or conviction, goes on a person’s criminal record, which the public can view. Being arrested, charged, or convicted can leave a stain on your permanent record, which can adversely impact you for the rest of your life – personally and professional. Fortunately, it is possible to expunge or seal criminal records in Illinois.
Many people use the words “expungement” and “sealing” interchangeably, but these two words do not mean the same thing. When your criminal record is expunged, it generally means it is erased so that it’s like it never happened. On the other hand, when your criminal record is sealed, it generally means that it is hidden from most of the public’s view.
Expungement of Criminal Records in Illinois
Generally, if you were arrested in Illinois or arrested and charged, you may have your criminal record expunged or sealed. Expungement is better than sealing as once the arrest, charge or plea, it is like it never existed. But you can’t have your record expunged if you were convicted of a crime under most circumstances. Being convicted means that you are declared or you pled guilty in a court of law, and the judge sentences you to:
- Prison/jail time
- Time considered served
- Regular probation
- Qualified probations that aren’t completed
- Conditional discharge probation
The following are the sentences eligible for expungement in Illinois:
- Court supervision (if successfully completed)
- Qualified probation (TASC probation, 710-1410 probation, and second chance probation)
As it pertains to ineligible cases, the following are cases that cannot be expunged in Illinois (unless dismissal or acquittal):
- Reckless driving (unless you were below the age of 25 when you were sentenced)
Required Waiting Period for Expungement of Criminal Records in Illinois
Four main time periods affect when you can petition to expunge your criminal record in Illinois. First, you can petition to have your criminal record expunged 160 days after your case is stricken with lease to reinstate. Second, you can petition to have your criminal record expunged immediately after dismissal, acquittal, or a release without charge. Third, you must wait for two years to apply for expungement after successfully completing supervision in most instances. In such a case, you’d need to wait five years. Last, if your probation is a qualifying one, like TASC, 2nd Chance Probation or First Offender Probation, you can petition to have your criminal record expunged five years after successfully completing your probation.
What Happens After Your Criminal Record Is Expunged in Illinois?
In Illinois, if a person petitions to have their criminal record expunged and the request is approved, the following happens:
- The law enforcement agency that made the arrest, such as the Illinois State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, remove the record from the official files.
- The circuit clerk erases the person’s name from the public record so that the public cannot see it.
- The criminal record will stop appearing on background checks.
Sealing of Criminal Records in the State of Illinois
As it pertains to convictions, sealing is typically possible at the discretion of the judge presiding over the case. The following are the sentences that can be sealed in Illinois:
- Conditional discharge
- Regular probation
- Time considered served
- Boot camp
- Court Supervision
In Illinois, most convictions qualify for sealing. However, the following convictions cannot be sealed:
- Domestic battery
- Criminal offenses against animals under the Humane Care for Animals Act
- Stalking no contact orders
- Violations of orders of protection
- Other sex crimes aside from misdemeanor public indecency and prostitution
Also, suppose after getting convicted, you were asked to register under, for instance, the Sex Offender Registration Act. In that case, you most likely will not be able to have that conviction record sealed unless your name is erased from the registry.
Required Waiting Period for Sealing of Criminal Records in Illinois
To qualify to petition to have your criminal record sealed, you must wait for at least three years after the end of your last sentence. However, it is possible to bypass this three-year waiting period. Suppose you earned a GED, diploma, vocational-technical certification, or another type of certificate/degree during your sentence, aftercare release, or mandatory supervised release/parole. In that case, you do not have to wait for three years to petition to have your record sealed.
Sealing of Felony Convictions
It is crucial to note that, in Illinois, after your felony conviction has been sealed, you cannot have another subsequent felony conviction sealed. In addition, if you are found guilty of another felony offense after you’ve had a felony conviction sealed, a judge can unseal the felony conviction that was sealed. Therefore, if you’re seeking to have your felony criminal record sealed, you need to avoid getting convicted of a felony ever again.
Do You Need To Hire an Attorney?
You are not legally required to have legal counsel help you handle your case if you are seeking to have your criminal record sealed or expunged. However, it’s advisable that you work with an attorney. First, an attorney can help you determine if your criminal record is eligible for sealing or expunging. Second, the law in the area of expungement and sealing of criminal records is quite complex and can be confusing if you do not have legal experience. Additionally, an attorney can help you if an objection is filed. For example, the State Police may file an objection if it believes you are ineligible for expungement or sealing under Illinois law.
Contact Us for Legal Help
At the Law Offices of Glenn & West, LLC, our experienced Illinois expungement and sealing attorneys can help you. We know how complex and confusing the expungement and sealing process can be and that understanding what records are eligible for expungement or sealing might not be easy. Contact us today to get help with your expungement or sealing case.