A lot of people who have been arrested for misdemeanors and felonies but not convicted of any crimes may assume that their criminal record may not hold them back from economic and financial opportunities. Unfortunately though, even if you have no convictions, a criminal record can still affect you in negative ways, including being denied employment, housing, college entrance, and personal financing.
When you are arrested for a criminal act, that record remains a matter of public record and can easily be discovered by anyone running a background check on you. Sadly, this record will exist even in the following circumstances:
- The prosecutor decides not to bring formal charges against you
- Charges were dismissed after being filed
- You were acquitted on all charges at the trial
- You completed supervision after a conviction
- The trial resulted in a hung jury
Although the criminal justice system is based on the concept of innocent until proven guilty, this may be of little comfort to family, friends, colleagues, employers, and landlords when they find out you were arrested for an alleged offense.
Illinois law allows people to expunge or seal their criminal records. The best way you can take advantage of this offer is to hire a professional expungement lawyer in Chicago and discuss your criminal history with him.
An expungement refers to when an arrest or criminal charges have been permanently erased from your record giving the appearance that they never even happened. Once an expungement is granted to you, all your criminal records are completely erased from the possession of every law enforcement agency who knows your cases.
An Illinois expungement lawyer can help you wipe your record permanently and help you start with a clean slate after a certain period of years. Many offenses can be erased at the same time if they happened in the same district. For example, if you have four cases in the city of Chicago and each of them resulted in a “not guilty” verdict or were dismissed, they can all be expunged with a single petition, saving you money and time.
Some of the instances when your case may be eligible for expungement include:
- When you were acquitted
- When charges against you were dismissed
- Your case is stricken without leave
- The conviction was later reversed or vacated
- When the court was unable to find probable cause
- You completed a court supervision
- You completed Section 10, 410, 710,1410, or TASC probation
- Your second probation was completed
The only exceptions to this law are honorably discharged veterans with Class 3 or Class 4 felony convictions.
Criminal Offenses Not Eligible for Expungement
The Illinois Criminal Identification Act is the law that controls expungement. Not all crimes can be expunged, though. For example, if you are convicted of a crime in Chicago, your criminal record cannot be expunged. However, if you were involved in criminal offenses or arrests that did not result in a conviction, you may petition for an expungement.
Aside from this, Illinois only allows crimes prosecuted in the state to be expunged. If your crime occurred in another state or happened at a federal level, you do not qualify for an expungement. Other offenses that cannot be expunged include:
- Driving under the influence
- Sexual offense
- Reckless driving
- Domestic battery
- Minor traffic offenses
- Violating an order of protection
Once your case has been evaluated and you and your criminal defense attorney decide to proceed with the expungement process, you can trust us to have the legal expertise and experience to wipe away your criminal offense from the record.
Once your record has been expunged from everywhere, you have the legal right to say “no” to any question about a prior criminal offense. That’s because, after expungement, in the eyes of the law, it never really happened.
Previously, if you had a criminal history, there was no way you could get rid of the record, regardless of the verdict or outcome of the case. Fortunately, though, now in Illinois, you are eligible to expunge any case that resulted in a dismissal, “not guilty” verdict, failure to find probable cause, or released from custody without being charged.
Criminal Record Sealing in Illinois
Aside from exceptional circumstances, most criminal convictions cannot be expunged in Illinois. However, some municipal violations, misdemeanors, or felonies may qualify you to have your criminal record sealed.
Sealing your record means that although the record will remain in existence, it cannot be accessed by the general public and can only be used by law enforcement authorities or certain government agencies. Under Illinois law, sealed criminal records cannot be accessed by employers.
Because of this, sealing can be as practical as expungement in most cases since they allow you to access job, academic, housing, and credit opportunities just like an ordinary, law-abiding citizen.
Many misdemeanors and felony convictions are eligible to be sealed but you need to wait at least 3 years in Illinois after completing your sentence to seal your records. Illinois House Bill 2373 was enacted on August 24, 2017, which expands the Illinois Criminal Identification Act to seal virtually all felonies through a court system. The three-year waiting period will remain in effect, though people who have registered on the Murder and Violence Offense Against Youth Registry cannot get relief until they remain on the register. Usually, at that point, three years have already passed so you can try for sealing relief immediately.
However, just like expungement, some convictions can never be sealed. These include:
- Domestic battery or violation of an order of protection
- Offenses are categorized as Class A or above listed under the Humane Care for Animal Act
- Driving under the influence and reckless driving, with an exception for youthful offenders
- Sexual crimes are listed under Article 11 of the Criminal Code of 2012
How Do I Know If I am Eligible for Expungement in Illinois?
If you need to find out whether you can be expunged, you need to access your criminal record. You can easily get this information from a police, sheriff, or county clerk’s office.
Some people try to access their records through online databases but these websites are often paid and can be pretty expensive. Additionally, they may only contain an incomplete record of your misdemeanors or felony history. Plus, you will require an official copy of your original criminal documents to attach to your expungement petition, so you need to be very careful if all the information you have is accurate.
You will often have to experience a waiting period depending on the outcome of your case:
- If you were only arrested but not charged with a crime or were acquitted, you can start the expungement process immediately.
- If you have a history of stricken without leave cases, you need to wait for 120 to 160 days, depending on whether you demanded a trial.
- If you served a period of court supervision, you must wait 2 years after your sentence has been completed.
- For crimes like theft, domestic battery, driving without insurance, reckless driving, and first offense drug charges, you must wait 5 years.
After your lawyer determines your eligibility for expungement or sealing, your petition will be filed with the court, and the police, state’s attorney, and other agencies will be given a chance to object until 60 days. If no one objects, you will be set a date for a hearing where your expungement lawyer will represent you and explain your case.
Once the petition is approved by the judge, he or she will create an order for the agencies to expunge or seal your records within 60 days. Typically, this process takes around 6 months to be completed but the timeframe may vary case by case.
Consult a Trusted Chicago Expungement Lawyer Today
As you can see, the law surrounding expungement and sealing can be complicated and influenced by several factors. The process is also pretty long-winded and difficult and most people may not be adequately able to do the job right.
However, even a single criminal offense left in your record can have devastating consequences on your life even if you were never formally charged, let alone convicted, of a crime. The effect of wiping your slate clean and starting afresh with a second chance can be priceless. This is why there is no room for error.
Chicago expungement lawyers at Ktenas Law have many years of experience dealing with the complicated Illinois Criminal Identification Act and understand the procedures required to efficiently and effectively expunge your criminal record. Contact us today to learn more about the expungement and sealing of your record and discuss your options with us.