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Can I clear my criminal record? Expungement and sealing in Illinois
In Illinois, there are certain procedures that can help you clear your record or limit its exposure. These options are called record expungement and record sealing.

Having a criminal record can negatively impact your ability to get a job, obtain a loan and find housing. In Illinois, there are certain procedures that can help you clear your record or limit its exposure, though. These options are called record expungement and record sealing.

Illinois record expungement

Under Illinois law, when a record is expunged, it is destroyed by the arresting police department, the State Police Department and the FBI, and the court record is impounded by the Clerk of the Circuit Court. After expungement, a record does not appear on a background check, and it is only available by court order.

The law prohibits potential employers from asking applicants if they have been arrested on job applications. However, they can ask if the applicant has been convicted of a crime. When a record has been expunged, the applicant can legally answer “No.”

Expungement is only available for records of arrests, supervisions and probations — a criminal conviction cannot be expunged. In addition, records of a criminal municipal ordinance violation or a Class A or Class B traffic offense cannot be expunged.

In most cases, supervision is not considered a conviction if the conditions of supervision are successfully completed. However, expungement is not available following supervision for:

  • Driving under the influence
  • Reckless driving
  • A sexual offense committed by an individual under age 18

After completing supervision, a waiting period of two to five years applies before expungement may be granted, depending on the offense.

An arrest record remains on one’s record even if the charges are later dismissed, there is a finding of no probable cause or the individual is found not guilty of the crime. The record is not automatically removed after a certain period of time or upon a favorable outcome. Therefore, it is important to seek record expungement to remove any hindrances when there has not been a conviction.

Illinois record sealing

If you have been convicted of a crime or expungement is not available for some other reason, it may be possible to have your record sealed. A sealed record can be seen by law enforcement agencies, but usually it cannot be accessed by employers or the public.

Employers in some industries do have the ability to see criminal conviction records for applicants who seek to:

  • Work at a hospital
  • Work at a school or with or near children
  • Work as a police officer, firefighter or other public employee
  • Work as a driver, if the conviction relates to driving or alcohol use

Record sealing may be available for a misdemeanor conviction if four years have passed since the conviction. It also may be available for misdemeanor or municipal ordinance violation prosecutions that ended in a finding of not guilty, a reversed conviction or a sentence of supervision if three years have passed from the supervision period. In addition, conviction records for Class 4 felonies for drug possession or prostitution may be sealed.

Misdemeanor conviction records cannot be sealed at any time for:

  • Violent crimes
  • Sex crimes
  • Driving under the influence
  • Reckless driving
  • Humane Care of Animals Act violations

Get legal help

The legal processes and requirements for record expungement or sealing can be complex, and having knowledgeable legal counsel is invaluable when trying to clear your record. If you would like to know more about record expungement or sealing, contact an Illinois criminal defense attorney.

Keywords: expungement
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