The Law Q&A | What records can be sealed or expunged?

The Law Q&A | What records can be sealed or expunged?

In Illinois, can I get my criminal record removed from the record books so that prospective employers I am interviewing with won't blackball me from ever getting employed, thereby preventing me from being a productive member of society again?

Yes, you can. But with limits.

Two different things are going on: expunging records and sealing records.

Expunging is where the law allows a record to be completely purged as if it never existed.

Sealing is where the law does not allow a record to be expunged, but it is not viewable or knowable by the public. It is kept in existence only within the circles of agencies the law deems vital for such agencies to know, such as law enforcement, prosecutors or certain government departments.

To seal or expunge, one must file a request with the court in the county where the criminal record is. If you have a record in more than one county, you'd have to file the request in each of those counties to get those particular records sealed or expunged. No case record can ever be sealed or expunged while that case has not yet been concluded.

Not expungable are records of a crime where there is a conviction that does not get a sentence of supervision. Crimes involving a sentence of supervision are generally expungable after two years from a successful completion of the supervision.

Supervision is where no conviction is entered if you complete all the conditions of the supervision; in effect, the case gets dismissed at the end of the supervision period. Thereafter you can request expungement of the entire case from the clerk's records.

Sealing a record generally has a waiting time of three years from completion of the sentence.

Where charges were brought but acquittal gotten, or the prosecutor dismissed the case before an arrest is made or before a trial is had, such case is also expungable/sealable. With some exceptions, there is generally no waiting period to seal or expunge a charge after an acquittal or dismissal.

Among some of the crimes that are never sealable or expungable are domestic battery, sex offenses involving a minor, driving under the influence or reckless driving, or crimes against animals. Nor are convictions or sentences of supervision for violations of orders of protection.

There may be more conditions for a particular record's eligibility for sealing or expunging, so consult a lawyer.

Once the request for sealing or expungement is filed with the clerk of the court, a judge decides if the request meets all the conditions imposed by the law. If so, the judge orders the clerk of the court to seal the record from the public or to expunge it entirely. If expunged, the court order granting the expungement itself is deleted from the court record.

Check with your local court clerk to see if there are any seal and expungement sign-up programs using attorneys who help might you for free.

Now if only they could pass a law providing for the sealing and expunging from a spouse's brain the record of the other spouse's mistakes and failures.

Life would be a whole lot rosier in that family's judicial system.

Brett Kepley is a lawyer with Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation. You can send your questions to The Law Q&A, 302 N. First St., Champaign, IL 61820. Questions may be edited for space.