Written by attorney Brandon Kenneth Davis

Expungement and Sealing in Illinois

If you have ever been arrested, even if you were never charged or the case was dismissed, you likely have a criminal record. The arrest will not be removed from your record automatically; you must take action to clear your record. Background checks are frequently used by employers, educational institutions, etc. to investigate your criminal history. There are two ways to "clean-up" your Illinois criminal record: expungement and sealing.

One of the most frequently asked questions is the difference between expungement and sealing. If your record is EXPUNGED, the criminal record is either destroyed or returned to you. Also, the Clerk of the Court will erase your name from their docket system and impound the court file. In contrast, if your record is SEALED, the record is not destroyed but rather it is no longer accessible to the general public without a court order. Additionally, the Clerk of the Court impounds the court file and erases your name from the electronic docket system. Prosecutors and law enforcement may have access to the sealed record.

Expungement is only an option when your entire criminal record qualifies for expungement. If any of the cases on your record do not qualify, then none of the cases can be expunged. In contrast, you may seal individual criminal records, regardless of the other cases on your record.

Certain cases do not qualify for either expungement or sealing, such as driving under the influence (DUI). If you have a DUI on your record, your record can never be expunged or sealed even if you received supervision. In addition, you can only expunge your record if you have never been convicted. In other words, expungement is not available if you have ever received probation, conditional discharge, time considered served, or jail time (these are all considered convictions). These records may only qualify for sealing. However, you may be able to expunge your record if you have never received a conviction (i.e. dismissal, SOL, supervision, acquittal).

It is important to note that specific timelines must be followed when petitioning the court for the expungement or sealing of your criminal record. For example, if you received supervision on a case, there is usually a two-year waiting period after the completion of supervision (there are a few types of cases that require a 5-year waiting period). At that point, a petition for expungement can be filed with the court. The laws in this area are complex and the process can be extremely confusing, speaking with an expungement attorney is recommended.

In order to determine if your criminal record qualifies for expungement or sealing, you must obtain a copy of your entire criminal record. You may wish to contact the Illinois State Police (815-740-5160, ext. 2743). A qualified expungement attorney can review your record and advise you. Feel free to contact our office to discuss your options.

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