What is Record Sealing?
In terms of your permanent criminal record, the term “seal” means to physically and electronically maintain records, but to make the records unavailable to the public without a court order and to obliterate (remove) the petitioner’s name from any official index or public record. However, law enforcement agencies and the courts will still have access to the records, as will other entities and employers allowed by law or court order. Thus, if your employer obtains a court order to view the record if it has already been sealed, they will be allowed to under the terms of the judge’s order. In simple terms, the record will still exist, but it will be much harder for non-court/governmental officials to view. While it is rare employers will utilize this method to determine what your record shows, they may simply reject your application in favor of someone that does not appear to have any conviction in their background. Since sealing the record removes it from the public record, your employer will not see your name in the court records thereby alleviating any potential suspicion in your criminal history.
How will I know if my criminal record is eligible for expungement or sealing?
Under 20 ILCS 2630/5.2), you are allowed to expunge/seal qualifying arrests, supervision, and convictions (only convictions allowed to be sealed are Class 4 Drug possession under Section 4 of the Cannabis Control Act or Section 402 of the Controlled Substance Act, Class 4 convictions under the Methamphetamine Precursor Control Act and the Steroid Control Act, and Class 4 prostitution convictions under 720 ILCS 5/11-14).
However, only those individuals who have never been convicted of a criminal offense or municipal ordinance violation are eligible to expunge records. If you have ever been convicted of a criminal offense or a municipal ordinance violation, your records may still be eligible for sealing, but you cannot expunge any records, regardless of the outcome of the individual case.
Further, only criminal records prosecuted and maintained by the State of Illinois are affected. Federal and out-of state-convictions do not fall under Illinois law.