How Do I Get My Criminal Record Sealed in Illinois?


If time has passed since you finished serving your sentence, you may wonder, how do I get my criminal record sealed in Illinois? A criminal record is created if you’re arrested or charged with an offense. It doesn’t go away if you are released without charge or eventually found not guilty. These records may be seen by the public, including potential employers, unless they are sealed or expunged.

You can hide records of many charges from the general public; this is known as “sealing.“ Destroying the records is “expungement.” Far fewer records can be expunged. They include:

  • Records of arrests that resulted in no charges, an acquittal, or dismissal
  • Convictions set aside because a court determined by clear and convincing evidence that you were innocent.

An early conviction of any kind makes you ineligible for expungement.

Under Illinois law, “seal” means “to physically and electronically maintain the records . . . but to make the records unavailable without a court order, subject to [certain] exceptions,” and to “obliterate” the person’s name from the official index kept by the circuit court clerk.

Criminal record sealing keeps them away from the public, but law enforcement can still see them. If you’re arrested, the officer can see a past arrest and conviction sealed from the public. Someone doing a background check because you’re applying for a job should not be able to see that record.

How to Get a Criminal Record Sealed

Most felony and misdemeanor convictions can be sealed after your petition to the court is approved, three years after the end of your last sentence. Several deferred adjudication programs involving “qualified probation” for minor drug crimes can be sealed after waiting two to five years.

There’s no waiting period for cases involving dismissal without charge or acquittal. There is also no waiting in felony cases if you earned a high school diploma, associate’s degree, career certificate, vocational technical certification, bachelor’s degree, or a GED during your sentence.

Offenses not eligible for record sealing include DUI, sex crimes, animal care crimes, and domestic battery. Those subject to registration under the following laws are ineligible until they’re removed from the registry:

You can ask to have several convictions sealed in the same proceeding. But if you commit a felony after the date your prior ones were sealed, it will remain open to the public. The court could order the unsealing of earlier felony conviction records.

Why Seal Your Criminal Record?

Any company willing to spend the money can do a criminal background check on you. How to get your criminal record sealed can be a good thing to know if you’ll apply for something you need. It may be easier to get if you can prevent the chance they’ll find your criminal record.

If you’re directly asked whether you’ve been convicted of a crime, it will be up to you how to respond. If you say no, but the party learns the truth another way, you may lose what you were trying to get, whether that’s a job or an apartment.

Renting a Home

If you want to rent a place, it’s very common for potential landlords or agents to run a criminal record check. Depending on the landlord, how important that record will be may vary. But if you can avoid the problem, it’s one less issue to deal with.

Taking Out a Loan

Many banks and financial institutions run criminal checks, especially if you’re applying for credit. If a loan application was rejected in the past, your criminal record may be the reason.

Applying for a Job

Before hiring someone new, businesses, especially larger ones, will typically ask if you have a criminal record. The question may be specifically about past felonies. Under Illinois law, there can’t be questions about criminal backgrounds during the application phase. If you’re being interviewed or given a conditional job offer, a potential employer can ask you about convictions.

Applying for College

Felons can face challenges when applying to college or if you seek on-campus housing. You may be asked about your criminal history or the school may do a criminal records check. If you have a criminal record, you can’t get loans or some grants from the federal government, but you may qualify for other types of grants and programs.

Colleges are most concerned about preventing people who may have a higher risk of violence on campus. The popularity of online classes has exploded. If you use that method, since you won’t be in class or living on campus, a school may not care whether you have a criminal record or not.

Contact an Attorney Who Can Help Seal Your Criminal Record Today

We all make mistakes. You may be able to make a fresh start. After your criminal record is sealed, many new opportunities may open up for you. Our country believes in second chances. There are legal methods to keep your past away from those wanting to know too much.

Start new and put away your criminal past. Get an honest legal opinion about your record and then devise a plan about how to pursue sealing it. For a free initial consultation, contact a lawyer at Wolfe & Stec at 630-305-0222. We’re here to help.

Attorney Marc Wolfe

Marc Wolfe has been representing clients in criminal matters in Chicago and the entire State of Illinois for over 30 years. Mr. Wolfe has tried over 300 cases to verdict and represents clients facing investigation or prosecution for a broad range of state and federal criminal offenses, including murder, embezzlement, sexual abuse, drugs, marijuana and white collar crimes. [ Attorney Bio ]