FAQ: Expunge Your Criminal Record of a Conviction or Arrest

What does it mean to expunge a past criminal conviction?
In terms of your permanent criminal record, the term “expunge” means to physically destroy records or to return the records to the petitioner and to obliterate (remove) the petitioner’s name from any official index or public record.  Expunging your record does not remove the record from the county’s office of adult services (probation).  For example, if you plead guilty to a misdemeanor and received court supervision from the court as your sentence, the particular county’s probation office will still maintain your record in their files.  While they cannot divulge the contents of that record to the public, it could affect any new case you obtain where the probation office is familiar with your past indiscretions.

What is a conviction?
A conviction is defined as a final judgment of guilt by the court.  If you received a jail sentence, time served, probation, and/or conditional discharge, you were convicted of that offense and you will likely not qualify for expungement.

What is NOT a conviction?

Dispositions that are not considered convictions are court supervision, Nolle Prosequi (NP), Stricken off with leave to reinstate (SOL), Dismissed, Not guilty, acquittal, or successful completion of first offender drug probation or TASC probation.

I pled guilty (or was found guilty after trial by judge or jury) and I received court supervision as my sentence.  Is my record eligible to be expunged or sealed?

Many times, petitioners receive court supervision from the court.  Court supervision is defined as a court order holding the case open for a specific period of time, usually between 3 months and two years (minimum 1 day, maximum 2 years).  During that time, no judgment of guilt is entered.  If all the conditions of supervision are followed, the case is “dismissed” and no conviction is ever entered against the defendant.  (Note:  The case is not technically dismissed, per se.  The court simply does NOT enter a conviction against you and the case is closed.  There is still a record of the case that shows you pled guilty to an offense.  However, it is NOT a final adjudication of guilt).

Certain offenses do not qualify to be expunged or sealed—even if you received court supervision.  Those offenses are:

·        625 ILCS 5/11-501            DUI
·        625 ILCS 5/11-503            Reckless Driving,
·        Any sexual offense committed against a minor under the age of 18 years of age.  Sexual offense committed against a minor includes, but is not limited to, the offense of indecent solicitation of a child or criminal sexual abuse when the victim of such offense is under 18 years of age.

On the other hand, some offenses ARE eligible for expungement; however, you must wait 5 years from the date your court supervision terminated successfully to petition the court AND you must not have any pending criminal charges at the time of filing OR any subsequent arrests, formal charges, convictions or court supervision dispositions since the offense you are petitioning to expunge.  These offenses are:

·        625 ICLS 3-707                Operating an Uninsured Motor Vehicle
·        625 ILCS 3-708                Suspended Registration or Non-insurance
·        625 ILCS 3-710                Displaying False Insurance
·        625 ILCS 401.3                Failure of Scrap Dealer to Keep Records
·        720 ILCS 5/12-3.2             Domestic Battery
·        720 ILCS 5/12-15              Criminal Sexual Abuse (if the victim was 18 yrs or older)
·        720 ILCS 5/16A-3              Retail Theft

If the offense you received court supervision for is not listed above and 2 years has elapsed since you successfully completed your supervision without any other violations AND you do not have any pending criminal charges at the time of filing OR any subsequent arrests, formal charges, convictions or court supervision dispositions since the offense you are petitioning to expunge, you may qualify to have your record expunged.

If it has not been 2 years since the court supervision was discharged, you will need to wait until 2 years have passed before you qualify to have your record expunged.

What if I was only arrested but no formal charges were filed against me (the charges were dropped)?

Once you are arrested, you have a record.  Sometimes, petitioners have an embarrassing arrest from their past that may show up on a criminal background check.  No matter how insignificant or serious the arrest, many employers factor this into their hiring decision.  You must be proactive in expunging your record even if you were simply arrested for a minor ordinance violation and the charges were dropped.

Where can I obtain a copy of my criminal record?

When obtaining your criminal record, there are several places you can go.  Prior to an attorney assisting you with expungement, the attorney will need a full and complete criminal history.  You will likely save time and money to retrieve your record on your own and then present it to your attorney.  It is also recommended that you contact as many agencies as is necessary to make certain that your record is complete and accurate.  The more times you have been arrested, the more work you will need to do in order to get a complete record. To obtain your record, please contact the following locations:

1.      The arresting agency that arrested you for the offense you seek to expunge/seal.
2.      The Illinois State Police, Bureau of Identification, 260 North Chicago Street, Joliet, IL 60432 or call (815) 740-5160.
3.      The Federal Bureau of Investigation FBI CJIS Division Record Request, 1000 Custer Hollow Road, Clarksburg, WV 26306 or call (304) 625-5590. Visit www.fbi.gov for more information.
a.      Requests to the FBI must be made in writing and must include your name, address, phone number and/or email address, date and place of birth, fingerprints and the required fee.

How long does the expungement/sealing process take?

The process could take several months and hiring an attorney to file the petition for you is recommended.  In a typical process, the petition is filed at the particular county’s circuit clerk where the offenses you seek to expunge were committed and the clerk’s office sets the matter for hearing. 
However, the attorney (or petitioner) must also serve notice on four governmental agencies of the petition:

1) the law enforcement agency that made the arrest;

2) the chief legal officer of the town, city, or municipality for that police or sheriff’s department;

3) the county State’s Attorney; and

4) the Illinois State Police.

Meanwhile, the circuit clerk sets the petition for hearing, generally 2-3 months after you file.  This allows the State’s Attorney’s office time to research your record and determine if they will object to your petition.  By law, the State is allowed 60 days to object to a Petition to Expunge or a Petition to Seal.  If the State or chief legal officer of the governmental body does not object, the attorney or petitioner will appear for the hearing and request the presiding judge to make a decision whether to grant or deny the petition.  If granted, the court will issue an order directing all notified parties to expunge or seal the record.

Even if an offense on my criminal record qualifies for expungement, can my record still not be expunged after a hearing in front of a judge?

Yes.  While qualifying for expungement is the first (and obvious) step in clearing your record, it is not absolute.  The court is allowed discretion to determine if the person is not only eligible for expungement, but to determine if the person is an appropriate candidate for expungement/sealing based on prior criminal history—whether or not they pled guilty, were found guilty, or were even charged with a crime.  For example, if the petitioner has numerous criminal infractions that did not result in any disposition other than dismissal or dropping of the charges and the court hears evidence of these infractions, the court may use that evidence of past criminal infractions when determining to grant or deny the petition.

What if I was convicted of a crime and I’m later arrested for a felony which does not result in a conviction?

If this happens to you, the second arrest is not eligible for either expungement or sealing (except for arrests for Class 4 prostitution and the Class 4 drug cases noted above).  Similarly, felony convictions (except prostitution and Class 4 drug cases noted above) can not be expunged or sealed unless you receive a pardon from the Governor which specifically authorizes expungement.
What if I was charged as a juvenile?

The juvenile expungement process is different from the adult expungement process.  If you have a juvenile record you wish to have expunged, contact an attorney at Hall & Rustom, L.L.C. to determine if you qualify.