Can You Get Your Criminal Record Sealed In Illinois?

Can You Get Your Criminal Record Sealed In Illinois?

When you have been charged with an offense (including a charge from an arrest), the incident is documented by the creation of a criminal record. This is true even if found not guilty. Criminal records are public, which essentially means anyone can investigate your criminal history. 

If you want to get your criminal record sealed, erased, or hidden, you must formally ask the court/judge to approve your request. In Illinois, there are several methods to clear a criminal record โ€“

  • Expungement โ€“ deletes any court supervision or arrests from a criminal record. The ABA offers this legal interpretation of expungement โ€“  
  • Sealing โ€“ hides (not deletes) a criminal record from most public access. Law enforcement personnel and agencies have access to sealed records. Employers who are legally required to complete a background check for hiring purposes can still view sealed felony convictions. Unless they happen, an employer happens to be a law enforcement agency; they are not permitted to view any cased related to a misdemeanor case/conviction that did not result in a conviction.  

The third option is Executive Clemency, which means you ask the governor to forgive criminal convictions. 

  • Executive Clemency โ€“ If, for some reason, you do not qualify for either expungement or sealing, there is the option of executive clemency that can be granted as a pardon from the Illinois governor. Essentially, this forgives your crime. Unless the pardon includes an authorization for expungement, a pardon does not erase or even hide a conviction on its own. 

Choosing Between Expungement and Sealing a Criminal Record

  • Any record that resulted in a conviction cannot be expunged unless โ€“
    • The conviction was vacated, reversed, or pardoned by the Governor.
    • The Prisoner Review Board has approved the expungement. 

If you have been convicted (and your situation does not fit a predefined exception), you may still have the option to seal (hide) a conviction, contingent on the charge and the time elapsed since the incident.

When Can I Apply for Expungement or Sealing of a Criminal Record in Illinois? 

The following are eligible for an application for the sealing or expungement of a record – 

  • If a criminal record includes charges or other successfully completed qualified supervisions/probation, you can apply to have those criminal records expunged (or permanently deleted). 
  • If convictions on a criminal record are not expungement eligible, the alternative is to get your criminal record sealed. 

Expunging a record is clearly preferable to sealing as the record in question disappears from the record. However, when expungement is not an option, sealing a criminal record in Illinois is a great alternative to achieve similar results.  

Offenses That Can Be Expunged (Erased) in Illinois

The following charges, arrests, or sentences that appear on your criminal record have the possibility of expungement โ€“

  • Misdemeanor and/or felonies arrests without convictions. 
  • Convictions for felonies or misdemeanors under the following applicable circumstances โ€“ 
    • The conviction was reversed or vacated – OR
    • The Governor granted a pardon that authorized an expungement of all convictions – OR
    • If Honorably Discharged as a Veteran and have a Prison Review Boardโ€™s Certificate of Eligibility for Expungement – OR
    • The conviction falls under an eligible misdemeanor or class 4 cannabis conviction in accordance with the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. 
  • Sentences for court-ordered supervision ONLY if – 
  • 2 years have passed since finishing supervision that was ordered by the court for offenses not listed below – OR 
  • 5 years have passed since finishing supervision that was ordered by the court for the following  – 
    • Domestic battery 
    • Operating an automobile or motor vehicle with a suspended registration for non-compliance with state-mandated insurance requirements 
    • Criminal sexual abuse (if and if the victim was of age (18+)) 
    • Operating an uninsured motor vehicle 
    • Display an insurance card that is fraudulent 
  • If you are 25 or older, with Reckless Driving supervision when younger than 25 โ€“ and no other convictions.
  • Qualified Probation Sentences – if 5 years have passed since you successfully finished the probation. 

Offenses That Can NOT Be Expunged in Illinois

The following that appears on a criminal record cannot be deleted โ€“

  • Minor Traffic Offenses unless you were not charged and released.  
  • Convictions for misdemeanors and felonies unless โ€“ 
    • The conviction was reversed or vacated – OR
    • The Governor granted a pardon that authorized an expungement of all convictions – OR
    • If Honorably Discharged as a Veteran and have a Prison Review Boardโ€™s Certificate of Eligibility for Expungement – OR
    • The conviction falls under an eligible misdemeanor or class 4 cannabis conviction in accordance with the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. 
  • Court supervision (i.e., any Qualified Probational Sentence) that WASNโ€™T completed successfully.
  • The supervision of the court for these types of offenses –
  • Driving recklessly ( only applies if the incident occurred when you were 25 years of age or older) 
  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
  • Sexual Offenses that have been committed against a Minor – Under Age 18 
  • Any convictions with an outcome of guilt that results in โ€“ 
    • Jail or prison time
    • Fines (that include no other sentence), and 
    • Qualified probation or Supervisions not finished in accordance with its terms.
    • A Conditional discharge
    • The time that qualifies as โ€˜served.โ€™

Offenses That Can Be Sealed (Hidden) in Illinois

Arrests and felony/misdemeanor charges (that didnโ€™t result in a conviction) will be able to be sealed at any time. The above holds true except in those cases where you were released from custody without a minor traffic offense charge. 

The following types of criminal record sentences can be sealed with the passage of 3 years since the successful completion of a previous sentence โ€“

  • Convictions for most felonies & misdemeanors, except those listed in the next section, entitled Offenses That Can NOT Be Sealed in Illinois.

NOTE: Convictions requiring registration with the Arsonist Registration Act or the Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth Registry may not be sealed until registration is no longer necessary. 

  • The following scenarios listed on a criminal record can be deleted after 5 years but could qualify for sealing after 3 years –
    • Arrests (or charges brought about without an arrest) that result in orders of first offender probation in accordance with โ€“
      • Cannabis Control Act โ€“ Section 10
      • The Illinois Controlled Substances Act – Section 410
      • The Methamphetamine Control and Community Protection Act – Section 70
      • The Unified Corrections Code – Second Chance Probation – Section 5-6- 3.3

NOTE: You may be able to seal those offenses that are eligible since the completion of your LAST sentence – rather than a waiting period of 3 or 5-years if you have successfully completed one of the following education goals โ€“ for the first time during this period –

  • A high school diploma
  • Passed the high school GED test.
  • A Career certificate
  • A Vocational or technical certification
  • An Associate degree
  • A Bachelor’s degree

Offenses That Can NOT Be Sealed in Illinois

The following that appears on your criminal record does not qualify to have their record sealed –

  • Convictions and/or required supervision for the following misdemeanors and felonies – 
    • Minor Traffic Offenses 
    • Driving Offenses 
      • DUI โ€“ or Driving Under the Influence 
      • Driving Recklessly (unless the charge occurred when you were 25 (or younger), and there have been no other convictions for reckless driving or driving under the influence.  
  • Order of Protection Violations 
  • Stalking or Civil No-Contact Order 
  • Domestic Battery 
  • Sexual Offenses 
    • Soliciting or Patronizing a Prostitute 
    • Felonious Public Indecency (misdemeanor convictions are eligible) 
    • Any other misdemeanor offense listed under Illinois Article 11 of the Criminal Code (Except Prostitution) 
    • Any crime mandating a registration in accordance with the state Sex Offender Registration Act 
  • Animal Offenses
  • A misdemeanor that is Class A as defined by the Humane Care for Animals Act 
  • Dog Fighting
  • New felony convictions that happen after a previous felony conviction has been sealed. In fact, a recent felony conviction may unseal prior sealed convictions. 

What if You Have Certain Offenses That are Sealable, While Others are not Eligible to be Sealed? 

Those offenses that are eligible to be sealed can be sealed, even if others do not qualify. Non-sealable offenses will remain visible on a criminal record.

There are specific rules and procedures set up by the state when filing the required forms to get your criminal record sealed and/or expunged. 

How Will I Know If My Sealing or Expungement Request Has Been Approved or Denied? 

A final decision that is not made in a courtroom will be followed by the Circuit Clerk mailing a copy of the approval or denial. 

What Is The Next Step After I Receive My Request For Expungement or Sealing? 

The approval of your request is an important document that should be safeguarded in a fireproof safe or bank vault as it may be needed as proof in the future. In addition, when the court expunges or seals a record, it no longer has access, and it may be extraordinarily challenging to obtain another copy of the approval. 

FAQS โ€“ Sealing Criminal Records in Illinois

Is it Possible for Someone to stop an Expungement or Sealing of a Criminal Record in Illinois?

Yes. When filing, the listed prosecutors and police departments will have the opportunity to object to the request. These qualified agencies and professionals have 60 days from the date they receive the request โ€“ to file a written objection with the relevant Illinois court. After the two months elapses, this police and other law enforcement personnel cannot object later.

How to Know If the Request for Sealing/Expungement has been Issued an Objection?   

The state police will copy you on their objection and mail a copy through the USPS. But note, an objection doesnโ€™t mean the court will automatically deny your request. The objection submitted to the court simply means that the court will consider both your request and the objection when deciding the ultimate outcome of your request. 

Will a Court Date Be Required for my Expungement or Sealing Case? 

There are certain circumstances that may require a court appearance. Each Illinois county has its own protocol. Some may only inform you of a scheduled date if someone objects to the request you have submitted.   

If a Court Date is Required, How Will The Court Decide to Approve or Deny the Submitted Request for a Record Being Sealed or Expunged?

Criminal record sealings or expungements are not, just because they meet eligibility requirements as defined by law, automatically approved. 

Before issuing a final decision, a court may – 

  • Review any objections filed by relevant agencies 
  • Determine if your request meets legal eligibility requirements 
  • Review other compensating factors as allowed by law that may include, among others – 
    • The potency of the evidence in support of your conviction
    • The reasons for the objections from a state or other agency. 
    • The time elapsed between the arrest resulting in the conviction and the time you file the request for expungement or sealing.  
    • The negative consequences that may result regarding the requestor should the request be denied.  

If My Records Have Been Expunged or Sealed, Am I Mandated to Tell Employers or Potential Employers About the Record?

No. When a criminal record has been expunged or sealed, a job applicant is under no obligation to reveal this to an employer.

  • On an application for a job, you may answer โ€œnoโ€ to any query like – โ€œhave you ever been convictedโ€ – if your entire criminal record was approved to be expunged or sealed. 

NOTE: in the state of Illinois, private employers who employ more than 14 are not permitted to ask an applicant if they have ever been convicted of a crime. 

  • However, If your request for expungement or sealing has not yet been decided by the court, you must report the criminal record to a potential employer after a conditional employment offer or interview. 
  • In Illinois, employers are prohibited from asking specifically about a sealing or record expungement unless they are legally authorized to do so.  
  • If an employer does find out about a sealed or expunged criminal record, they will violate the Illinois Human Rights Act if they use this information against you as an employee.  

If my Request is Approved, What is the Length of Time Required for the Criminal Record to be Expunged or Sealed?ย 

If the judge approves a submitted required, the order will be sent to the prosecutors and police departments listed when filing the request. These agencies are required to either seal or expunge the record within 60 days from the date they receive the order from the Circuit Clerk.  

How Can I Be Certain my Record Has Been Expunged or Sealed?ย 

The Illinois State Police sends a notice stating that the sealing or expungement has been done. Until this letter is received, the record in question will remain visible.  

What Can I Do if my Request is Denied?ย 

There are several options should the request be denied โ€“

Ask the court to reconsider the request again. Note that –  

  • Motion for Reconsideration is required to be filed with the appropriate Circuit Clerk. Note there will be 60 days from the date you receive the denial of your request to file for this reconsideration.
  • Unless a fee waiver is granted, you may be required to pay another filing fee.  Copies of the Motion for Reconsideration & Notice of Motion must also be sent to โ€“ 
    • The Illinois State Attorney
    • Relevant Arresting Agencies
    • The Chief Legal Officer of the relevant local government, as well as
    • The Illinois State Police. 

Seek an Appeal through an Appellate Court. To set this in motion, you must –  

  • File a Notice of Appeal with the Circuit Clerk within 30 days from the day the denial Order was entered 

 OR

  • If you file your Motion for Reconsideration is denied, file a Notice of Appeal within the next 30 days 
  • Unless the fee is waived by a grant of the Appellate Court, you may be required to pay another filing fee.  

The Take-Away

A criminal record has the potential to impact anyoneโ€™s professional and personal life. Even if never found guilty, an arrest record in Illinois is readily available to the public unless expunged or sealed. 

The laws regarding sealing and expungement are complex, with each county abiding by its own set of rules. Hiring an experienced Illinois attorney can help ensure the appropriate process is followed, which provides you with the best opportunity to have the record sealed.