Expungement: Why it Can Make a Big Difference in Your Life
A criminal record will follow you wherever you go and negatively affect most aspects of your professional and personal life. With computer searches so accessible and so many employers and services doing background checks, those with a criminal record will have difficulty finding a job, a good relationship and good housing, completing education, and receiving immigration and other benefits.
If you made a mistake and wish you could start all over again with a clear record, there may be a way to do so. Illinois law allows certain criminal records to be removed from the public record through a process called expungement, and this can make an enormous difference in your life.
The Illinois Criminal Identification Act, Chapter 20, Section 2630/5.2 of the Illinois Statutes, deals with expungement and sealing of criminal records. It is a complicated law that states which offenses may or may not be cleared.
Beginning January 1, 2004, the law was amended to permit people with qualifying arrests, felonies, misdemeanor supervisions and misdemeanor convictions to ask the court to either expunge or seal the records related to their cases. Through expungement, arrests and even certain convictions no longer show in background checks. Once records have been expunged, you are allowed to assert that you have not been convicted of a crime.
However, records cannot always be expunged, so you should seek legal counsel to determine if you are eligible and help you through the process. If you are not eligible for expungement, you may still benefit from having your records sealed.
The experienced and seasoned Illinois criminal law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., understand the importance of expungement and offer aggressive representation for clients facing criminal charges. We have been successful in having criminal arrests removed from our clients’ records, and we will do everything possible to vigorously fight for you.
We offer a free initial consultation. If you have been accused of any criminal charges, get help today by calling 630-305-0222.
Expungement or Sealing?
If you were arrested and charged but found not guilty, if you were acquitted or the case was dismissed, then you can have your records expunged. Also, if someone has falsely identified himself or herself using your identity during an arrest or conviction, your name can be cleared from these records.
To have records expunged, you must first petition the court to do so. The court will evaluate your petition; if your petition is granted, your records will be removed from public access and erased as if they had never existed. All physical documents will be returned to you, including fingerprint documents, police reports and photographs from your arrest. Electronic records will also be destroyed.
Depending on your crime and whether you have been convicted, you may not be eligible for expungement, but you may still be able to have your records sealed. Some misdemeanor convictions qualify for sealing in Illinois, but many — including driving under the influence, assault, battery, and most sex offenses — do not. If your convictions do not qualify for sealing, the only way to clear your record is to receive a pardon from the governor that authorizes the expungement of your record.
Sealed records are not destroyed, but they are kept confidential. Law enforcement may still access the records, but the general public usually will not. Sealed charges may be reopened if the court so requests and if you are charged with the same offense again.
How Do I Know if I’m Eligible?
To be eligible for expungement in Illinois, one or more of the following must be true:
- You have to be found not guilty, acquitted, or released in terms other than conviction.
- There was no finding of probable cause.
- The case was dismissed by the State’s Attorney.
- Any conviction or sentence was later set aside.
- You were pardoned by the Governor of Illinois.
- Two years have passed since you completed any court-ordered supervision.
For the following crimes, five years must have passed since completion of supervision:
- Uninsured motor vehicle
- Suspended registration
- Having false insurance
- Reckless driving
- Retail theft
- Possession of controlled substances.
While many misdemeanors are qualified for expungement, a skilled attorney may be able to get your records expunged even for more serious crimes. These include: felonies, assault and battery, domestic violence, weapons charges, theft, violent crimes and property crimes.
Put Your Trust In Us — Contact Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. For A Free Consultation
Illinois law dealing with expungement is complicated, and judges do not always interpret it consistently, so it makes sense to have an attorney on your side.
The criminal defense lawyers at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. are skilled trial lawyers who believe each case is unique, with its own set of circumstances. We know the judges and the court system and will aggressively explore every avenue for your defense. We examine the facts, the individuals involved, and the evidence available, and can greatly increase your chances of getting your case expunged or sealed.
Don’t delay — contact us for help today at 630-305-0222 if you have been accused of any criminal charges. Our Illinois criminal lawyers represent clients in DuPage County, Will County, Naperville, Aurora, Wheaton, Downers Grove, Bolingbrook, and the Greater Chicagoland area in Illinois. Your initial consultation will be free.