The law to expunge and seal cases in Illinois is a bit tough to piece together. We hope that whether you are currently finishing a sentence or free and clear, this Expeal Quick Guide will give y the starting point you need to begin the process of erasing your criminal record. Once your last case is terminated, meaning every single obligation of your sentence – probation, payment of fees and costs, community service, and any other requirement – you can begin the process of expunging or sealing your charges.
First, you need to figure out if your case is one that qualifies or not. There are a list of charges that will absolutely disqualify you if you are convicted. These includes any sexual offense against a minor, criminal sexual abuse, battery against unborn children and domestic battery, violating criminal or civil no contact orders, dog fighting, DUI in most circumstances, and reckless driving in most circumstances.
Second, you need to figure out whether you can expunge your charges or if you have to seal them. Both are just as important, the end result matters only if you get in trouble again later in your life. A case that is expunged is destroyed but a case that is sealed can be re-opened if you commit a felony again in the future.
If you want to expunge your case, you have to have a clean record – no convictions. The charge you want to expunge should have been an arrest that never resulted in charges or a charge that ended with an acquittal, dismissal, or a conviction that was vacated or reversed. There are also instances with certain orders of supervision and qualified probations that will allow you to expunge your case as well.
If the records you want to expunge are related to an arrest that did not result in charges, you do not have to wait to file to expunge your record. If they are related to an order of supervision for a certain of series of charges that are listed and you successfully completed everything, you have to wait 5 years before you can expunge them. If they are related to misdemeanor reckless driving charges you received before you were 25, you have to wait until you are 25 years old. If you want to expunge records related to an order of supervision for charges not listed, you have to wait 2 years. If you want to expunge records related to charges that resulted in a qualified probation that was successfully completed, you have to wait 5 years. Finally, if you want to expunge your records related to a pardon or a certificate of eligibility that allow for expungement, you can file as soon as you have a certified copy of the document.
If you have a conviction on your record or don’t otherwise qualify to expunge your record, you may be able to seal your charges. If you were arrested and released without charges, you can seal the record associated with the arrest. Charges that did not result in a conviction or did result in a conviction, so long as they qualify, can be sealed as well. Convictions for misdemeanors and municipal violations that qualify include those that do not fall under the disqualified list, including those that resulted in orders of supervision or first offender probation. Felony convictions are limited to Class 4 and Class 3 felonies that fall under certain aspects of theft, possession of drugs, deceptive practices, and prostitution.
If the records you want to seal are related to an arrest that did not result in charges, you do not have to wait to file to seal your record. If they are related to charges you were not found guilty of, you can also file right away. If they are related to orders of supervision that were successfully completed, you can seal them after 2 years. If they are related to convictions related to non-disqualifying charges, first offender probation, or one of the permissible felonies, they can be sealed after 4 years. If they are related to misdemeanor reckless driving charges you received before you turned 25, you can seal them as soon as you turn 25. If you receive your GED and you have never received your high school diploma or an equivalent prior to that, you may be able to seal your records as soon as you receive the paperwork confirming your GED. Finally, if you want to seal your records related to a certificate of eligibility that allows for sealing, you can file as soon as you have a certified copy of the document. It is important to note that if you are convicted of a felony after having had your records sealed, they may be unsealed.
The procedure for expunging and sealing records is the same. You have to file a petition that contains your name, date of birth, current address, case number for each charge, date of arrest (if any), and arresting authority (if any), as well as anything else the court asks from you. If you are filing your petition based on a certificate of eligibility you received from the Prison Review Board, you have to attach that as well. If you are filing a petition to seal or expunge certain felonies, you have to attach a drug test that was taken within the last 30 days before you filed your petition. This petition needs to be filed in every county where records related to that case are contained. So if you were arrested in one county and charged in another, you have to file a petition in both counties. That means you also have to pay a filing fee for every petition.
If any of the authorities that have records related to your case have objections to sealing or expunging them, they have 60 days from the day they received the petition to file their objection. If an objection is filed, a hearing has to be held with at least 30 day notice. Whatever evidence is presented at that hearing will be used by the judge to determine whether or not to enter an order granting your request to seal or expunge your record. Anyone who has an objection to the order entered will have 60 days to file a motion to vacate, modify, or reconsider the order. If anyone wants to appeal an order, they have to wait 30 days for it to become final.