People who think about the consequences of being caught committing a crime often focus on the penalties that the government imposes after convicting someone, things like prison sentences or fines. Yet, another major consequence is the criminal record that can follow a person through life. Records of arrests, supervisions, or convictions can make it difficult to get a job, a business license, or even an apartment. Fortunately, Illinois law provides a variety of ways for people to clear their criminal records, including expungement, sealing, and other options. However, each of these methods have different effects and different people qualify for them.
The most effective method of clearing a person's criminal record is by expunging it. However, it is also the hardest process for which a person can qualify. A person's criminal record is stored in multiple places, such as in the courthouse and at the arresting authority. An expungement instructs these places to physically destroy the copies of the person's criminal record, and to forward clean records to the FBI. This will prevent any background checks from showing the offenses. There are however some limited exceptions to this destruction. For instance, if a person receives supervision for criminal sexual assault, then law enforcement agencies can still access that record for five years after the expungement.
In order to qualify for an expungement, a person must meet several criteria. First, the person can never have been convicted of a criminal offense, the violation of a municipal ordinance, or a serious traffic offense. This means that expungements can only be used to clear things like arrests and supervisions from a record, not convictions. Additionally, depending on the way the case ends, the petitioner may need to wait before filing an expungement. For example, if a person's case is “stricken off with leave to reinstate,” meaning that the prosecution dropped the case but has the option to bring it again, then they must wait three to four months before filing.
Sealing a criminal record is a less drastic option for cleaning someone's history. Sealing is different from expungement in that law enforcement agencies can still see the criminal record. However, sealing still hides the record from most employers. Sealing is also easier to qualify for.
Unlike expungement, people can have their records sealed if they were convicted of a crime. However, not all convictions qualify for sealing. A person may only have their record sealed if they were convicted of a misdemeanor. Additionally, there is a waiting period of four years after the conviction before the record may be sealed.
People who do not qualify for sealing may also have other options, such as executive clemency or Certificates of Good Conduct. If you have questions about any of these options, contact an experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney today. Our office serves clients in many different northwest suburbs, such as Rolling Meadows, Arlington Heights, and Barrington. Call Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC, at 847-934-6000 today.
About the Author: Founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC, Colin Gilbert, received his J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of law in 2005. Colin argues cases across many practice areas including criminal defense, collections, civil litigation, real estate law, and corporate law. Colin is an active member of the Board of Governors of the Northwest Suburban Bar Association and the Illinois Creditors Bar Association. He is currently Vice President of the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce, and is a Commissioner for the Village of Arlington Heights. Colin has a 10.0 Attorney rating on Avvo, and was named one of the 2014 “Top 40 Under 40” Trial Lawyers in Illinois by the National Trial Lawyers Association.