Even if you are found not guilty of a crime, you will still have a criminal record because you were arrested and charged with a crime to begin with. Once it’s been created, your criminal record can be seen by the public, which can affect your employment options, education opportunities, loan applications, and even housing applications. A criminal record severely hampers your ability to lead any semblance of a normal life.
So, if you have a criminal record, how can you get rid of it?
Under Illinois law, there are three ways you can possibly clear your criminal record:
- Executive Clemency
Expungement can eliminate arrests, court supervisions, and certain probations from your criminal record. If you were convicted of a crime, it can only be expunged if the conviction was vacated, reversed, or approved for expungement by the Prisoner Review Board.
Sealing your criminal record is basically hiding it from a majority of the public. Law enforcement agencies will still be able to see the sealed record. If an employer is required by law to conduct a background check, they will be able to view sealed felony convictions. However, they will not be allowed to see sealed misdemeanor convictions or cases where a conviction didn’t result.
Executive clemency is when the Governor of Illinois pardons you. Any conviction is eligible for clemency, and if you are granted a pardon, you are forgiven for your crime. You will still need to apply to have your record sealed or expunged though.
What Types of Cases Can be Sealed?
If you are in Illinois and have a criminal record, you can have your record sealed if you’re an adult or if you were a minor prosecuted as an adult.
Some misdemeanor offenses and municipal ordinance violations qualify for sealing if you were acquitted, released without being charged, or your conviction was reversed.
Most felony convictions, on the other hand, can’t be sealed, but certain Class 4 and Class 3 felonies may qualify.
Class 4 Felonies
- Marijuana possession
- Drug possession
- Theft and retail theft
- Deceptive practices
- Possession of burglary tools
- Steroid Control Act offenses
- Methamphetamine Precursor Control Act offenses
Class 3 Felonies
- Theft and retail theft
- Deceptive practices
- Possession with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance
It’s also good to know which cases cannot be sealed in Illinois. As mentioned above, most felony convictions can’t be sealed and certain misdemeanors also can’t be sealed:
- Driving under the influence
- Reckless driving
- Minor traffic offenses
- Sex offenses (except prostitution)
- Domestic battery
- Battery of an unborn child
- Violating a civil no contact order, stalking no contact order, or protection order
- Dog fighting
- Failing to provide for the humane care of an animal
- Any offense that requires registration under the Sex Offender Registration Act
How Can I Seal My Criminal Record?
If you and your particular crime qualify to have your record sealed, you will need to file a Request to Seal Criminal Records. This allows you to provide the court with the necessary information to determine if your record can be sealed. You will also need to file a Notice of Filing for Expungement or Sealing, which notifies the arresting agency that you want your record sealed.
When sealing your criminal record, you are able to seal certain items, while others will remain. Just because you are unable to seal one part of your record doesn’t mean you can’t seal another.
If you were arrested but no charges were filed, you can attempt to have your record sealed at any point.
If you were convicted of an eligible felony offense, you can attempt to seal your record 3 years after your sentence ends.
If you were sentenced to probation, you will have to wait 4 years. If you were sentenced to supervision, you only have to wait 2 years.
Once your case goes before a judge, the court will look at a number of factors in order to make a decision about sealing your criminal record. Some of these factors include, but are not limited to:
- Your criminal history
- How long ago the crime was committed
- Evidence of good behavior
- Any rehabilitation you have undergone
- Whether sealing your record will be a threat to the public
About The Author:
Howard J. Wise, the owner of the Illinois-based Law Offices of Howard J. Wise & Associates, is a criminal defense attorney who stands ready to assist clients in many different areas of the law, including criminal appeals, DUI, misdemeanors, traffic violations, and felonies. Mr. Wise began his legal career at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office as the assistant state attorney, where he was able to gain unique prosecutorial experience. He then transitioned to criminal defense and currently devotes his practice exclusively to protecting the rights of those accused of crime.