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Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C.
630-472-9700Available 24/7

Expunging Versus Sealing Criminal Records in Illinois

Posted on in Chicago criminal defense lawyer

sealed record expungementWe all make mistakes, some of which involve the criminal justice system. Whether you were arrested, cited, charged, or ultimately convicted, your actions left a record somewhere. This record may make it difficult for you to obtain employment or housing, or may negatively impact your relationships. Regardless of how “minor” or how long ago a conviction may have been, that record will follow you forever.

The good news is that depending on the circumstances, you may be eligible under Illinois law to have this record removed from the criminal database in a process called expungement. Sealing a court record is also possible in some situations. Both offer different results, but each are important to understand if you have a criminal record you wish to have removed.

Differences Between Expunging and Sealing

The Illinois Criminal Identification Act lays out the eligibility requirements and procedures for expunging or sealing court records in the state of Illinois. It also explains special circumstances such as juvenile convictions, identity theft convictions, and instances of court ordered probation or supervision in lieu of jail time. According to the Office of the State Appellate Defender, expungement means to “physically destroy records or to return the records to the petitioner, and to...remove the petitioner’s name from any official index or public record.” Expungement prevents your criminal history information from being available to the public. Perhaps more importantly, if asked on most job applications if you have ever been convicted of a crime, you will most likely be able to answer “no.” However, there are some jobs that may still require you to disclose this information under applicable law.

Alternatively, sealing a record prevents the public from accessing the record, but law enforcement agencies and courts will still have access to the record. Most people are concerned with the public record and what they will have to report on job applications, so the end result is similar whether you expunge or seal your criminal record. Note that regardless of whether you are filing for expungement or sealing, your request must be filed in the county where you were arrested or where the charge was brought. Also, different counties have different rules about when you are eligible for expungement/sealing, whether you can appeal if you are originally denied expungement/sealing, or how long you have to appeal after you are denied.

How Do I Know if I Can Have My Criminal Record Expunged or Sealed?

The first step is determining your eligibility for expungement or sealing. Even if you already filed to have your criminal record expunged or sealed and the court denied the request, there may still be something you can do to move on from your past. Unlike in some states, many Illinois courts will let you timely appeal if your expungement request is initially denied. However, having an attorney will ensure your paperwork is prepared correctly and thoroughly the first time and give you the best chance of being able to move forward as quickly as possible. Contact our DuPage County criminal defense attorneys at Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C. at (630)472-9700 for a free consultation.

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