Expungement and Sealing FAQ

What is the difference between expungement and sealing?

There are two methods of clearing your criminal record: expungement and sealing. When a record is expunged, it is either destroyed or returned to you. In other words, the arresting agency and/or the Illinois State Police physically destroy the criminal record or return the record to you. In addition, the Clerk’s Office will erase your name from their docket system and impound the court file (as a result, it is no longer accessible to the public).

If your record is sealed, it cannot be obtained without a court order to unseal the record and is NOT accessible to most of the general public. In addition, the Clerk’s Office impounds the court file and erases your name from the Clerk’s Office’s electronic docket system. Law enforcement and prosecutors still have access to the sealed record.

What charges qualify for expungement or sealing?

There are specific cases, such as DUI, that do not qualify for expungement or sealing. There are other cases that are only eligible for sealing rather than expungement because of the sentence you received. Convictions (i.e. conditional discharge, probation, jail) do not qualify for expungement but some or all of your records might qualify to be sealed. Illinois has specific waiting periods must be followed depending on the final disposition of the case. Recent legislation has significantly expanded which felonies are eligible for sealing. The following felony offenses do NOT qualify for sealing: domestic battery, battery or aggravated battery on unborn children, violations of orders of protection, DUI, reckless driving, sex crimes, and crimes against animals under the Humane Care for Animals Act. Feel free to contact us to review your record.

Note: Minor Traffic tickets cannot be expunged.

Do I need to hire an attorney?

While you are not required to hire an attorney to file a petition for expungement or sealing, legal representation is encouraged. The law in this area is complex and can be extremely confusing for those without prior experience. Legal assistance is commonly used in these matters. Despite your eligibility, if an objection is ultimately filed, your attorney will ensure that your case is argued effectively in court. Hiring an experienced attorney to handle your expungement or sealing petition from the start is highly recommended.

Will I have to appear in court?

The short answer: "maybe." Some counties require you to appear in court while others do not. For example, in Cook County, you may only need to appear in court if an objection to your petition is filed. However, more often than not, an attorney may appear on your behalf.

If an objection to the petition to expunge/seal is filed, what factors will the court consider?

As your attorneys, our goal is to persuade the court that you are worthy of having your petition to expunge or seal granted despite the objection that has been filed. Under Illinois law, the court may consider the following factors:

  • (A) the strength of the evidence supporting the defendant's conviction;
  • (B) the reasons for retention of the conviction records by the State;
  • (C) the petitioner's age, criminal record history, and employment history;
  • (D) the period of time between the petitioner's arrest on the charge resulting in the conviction and the filing of the petition under this Section; and
  • (E) the specific adverse consequences the petitioner may be subject to if the petition is denied.

How long does it take to expunge or seal a case?

Generally, the entire expungement and sealing process takes three-five months. Because the various agencies involved (i.e. Illinois State Police, arresting police department, State’s Attorney’s Office, etc.) have the ability to object to your petition for a specified amount of time, there may be some delay in the process. In addition, it may take law enforcement agencies up to 60 days to expunge or seal your records once the petition is granted by the judge. As a result, you should begin the process as soon as possible, rather than waiting until you are applying for a new job.

Do I have to tell employers about my expunged or sealed record?

No. Employers and potential employers (except law enforcement, state’s attorneys, State Police, etc.) are not allowed by law to ask you whether you have had any records expunged or sealed. Once a record has been expunged or sealed it may not be considered by a private or public entity in employment matters.

What information do you need to begin the process?

Information on all arrests is necessary in order to determine your eligibility for expungement or sealing. This information includes a complete criminal history consisting of:

  • Date of arrest
  • Law enforcement agency that arrested you
  • Charges
  • Disposition (outcome) of each case
  • Date that your case or sentence was completed

A copy of your rap sheet is extremely helpful. We can usually determine eligibility based solely on the information contained on your rap sheet.

What is a rap sheet?

When you are arrested in Illinois, that information is forwarded by the arresting agency to the Bureau of Identification, which is a branch of the Illinois Department of State Police in Joliet. Your Illinois rap sheet will only include those arrests that took place in Illinois. No out-of-state criminal cases or federal cases will appear. Obtaining a copy of your rap sheet will help our attorneys determine whether you are eligible for expungement or sealing. In addition, certain districts require that you attach a copy of your rap sheet to your petition for expungement or sealing.

Where do I obtain a copy of my RAP sheet?

Rap sheets are public information in Illinois. Before obtaining your rap sheet, you will need to provide fingerprints to the police department. If you wish to obtain your rap sheet only from a specific police district, you may go to that police department to provide fingerprints.

If all of your arrests occurred in Chicago and you wish to obtain a copy of your rap sheet, contact the Chicago Police Department.

For Adult Records:

  • Chicago Police Department
  • 4770 S. Kedzie
  • Chicago, IL 60653
  • (312) 745-1179

For Juvenile Records:

  • Chicago Police Department
  • 3510 S. Michigan Avenue
  • Chicago, IL 60653
  • (312) 746-6000

The fee to obtain your rap sheet is $16. Fingerprints are taken Monday-Friday, 8:00a.m. to 12:00p.m. Pick-up time is daily from 8:30a.m.-3:00p.m. There is a 7-day wait period before you can pick-up the rap sheet. If your rap sheet is not picked up within a month of being fingerprinted, you will need to go through the process again.

For arrests that took place outside of the City of Chicago, you may obtain your rap sheet from the Illinois State Police:

  • Illinois State Police (in Joliet, IL)
  • Division of Administration
  • Bureau of Identification
  • 260 North Chicago St.
  • Joliet, IL 60435
  • (815) 740-5160 Ext. 2743

What if I am unable to report in person to the Chicago Police Department?

If you live outside the State of Illinois or outside the City of Chicago and cannot report in person to the Chicago Police Department Headquarters, you will need to complete the following process in order to obtain your rap sheet:

First, you will need to have your fingerprints taken at your local police agency and receive a fingerprint card with your fingerprints on it. The fee to request a copy of your rap sheet in $16 and must be in the form of a Money Order made out to the Department of Revenue (cash is not accepted). You must send a large envelope containing the following to the Chicago Police Department: your fingerprint card (do not bend), the fee, a copy of your current valid driver’s license or state identification card, a self-addressed stamped envelope, and a short letter explaining that you are requesting a copy of your rap sheet along with your telephone number. These materials must be sent to:

  • Chicago Police Department
  • 3510 S. Michigan Ave.
  • Chicago, IL 60653
  • (312) 745-5644

Once you have received your rap sheet, the attorneys at The Davis Law Group, P.C. will be able to review the information contained therein and determine whether your record is eligible for expungement or sealing.

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