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Expungement and Sealing FAQs

What is the difference between expungement and sealing?

There are two methods of 'clearing' your criminal record: expungement and sealing. When a your record is expunged, the Clerk’s Office will erase your name from their docket system and impound the court file so the information does not appear on a employment background check and the record will NOT be accessible to the public. The arresting police department, Illinois State Police and FBI will also be ordered to expunge their records. Most private entities will NOT have access to the expunged record except under very limited circumstances. However, expunged records may be disseminated by the Department of State Police if required by law. Additionally, upon a subsequent conviction for any offense, the Department of Corrections may have access to a expunged record.

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 or on a employment background check. In addition, the Clerk’s Office impounds the court file and erases your name from the Clerk’s Office’s electronic docket system. The arresting police department, Illinois State Police and FBI will also be ordered to seal their records. Law enforcement including police, courts, prosecutors and the Department of Corrections still have access to the sealed record. It is important to note that sealed felony convictions can be accessed by any employer that requires a fingerprint-based background check for employment (i.e. schools, financial institutions, park districts, and other state and agencies and units of local government).

What cases qualify for expungement or sealing?

Recent legislation significantly expanded the misdemeanor and felony offenses that are eligible for expungement and sealing. The sentence you received and the offense determine your eligibility for expungement and/or sealing.

Sentences eligible for expungement:

  • Acquittals
  • Dismissals
  • Court supervision (if satisfactorily completed)
  • Qualified probation (i.e. 710-1410 probation, TASC probation, and second chance probation) are eligible for expungement.
Sentences eligible for sealing:
  • Convictions
    • Conditional discharge
    • Regular probation
    • Jail/prison
    • Boot camp
    • Time considered served
Ineligible Cases:

The following cases cannot be expunged (unless acquittal or dismissal) :

  • DUI
  • Reckless Driving (unless under 25 years of age when sentenced)
The following convictions cannot be sealed:
  • Domestic battery
  • Violations of orders of protection
  • Stalking no contact orders
  • DUI
  • Reckless driving (unless under 25 years of age when sentenced)
  • Sex crimes (aside from prostitution and misdemeanor public indecency)
  • Crimes against animals under the Humane Care for Animals Act

Illinois has specific waiting periods must be followed depending on the final disposition of the case as discussed below.

Note: Minor traffic tickets cannot be expunged, subject to a motion to vacate.

What is the required waiting period for expungement and sealing?

There are certain required waiting periods for expungement and sealing in Illinois. The waiting period depends on whether you are attempting to seal or expunge the offense and also the final disposition of the case.

For expungement, you are eligible immediately after a Finding of Not Guilty/Acquittal, Nolle Pros, or Finding of No Probable Cause as long as you do not still have a pending case. If the case disposition shows as Stricken with Leave (SOL), there is a 160 day waiting period. If the case disposition shows Non-Suit, there is a 120 day waiting period.

If you were placed on court supervision, the majority of offenses may be expunged 2 years after the successful completion of the supervision period. However, certain offenses require a 5 year waiting period for expungement including: domestic battery, criminal sexual abuse and qualified probation (i.e. 710-1410 Probation, Second Chance Probation, TASC Probation if properly vacated). It is important to note that qualified probation also requires proof of a clean drug test within 30 days of filing the petition.

For sealing, cases resulting in convictions, 710-1410 Probation and TASC Probation are eligible 3 years after completion of your most recent sentence. Cases resulting in supervision are eligible for sealing 2 years after completion of your supervision period.

There is no waiting period to seal eligible offenses if you earned a high school diploma/GED, associate's degree, career certificate, vocational technical certification, or bachelor's degree during the period of your sentence, aftercare release or mandatory supervised release.

Do I need to hire an attorney?

Hiring an expungement and sealing attorney to handle your case allows you to ensure that the process is handled properly and efficiently. While you are not required to hire an attorney to file a petition for expungement or sealing, legal representation is still encouraged. The law in this area is complex and can be extremely confusing for those without prior experience. Legal assistance is commonly utilized in these matters for a variety of reasons, including convenience.

Despite your eligibility, if an objection is ultimately filed, your attorney will ensure that your case is argued effectively in court. Therefore, 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, depending on the circumstances, your attorney may appear on your behalf and avoid the need for your to personally appear in court.

Why would an objection to my petition be filed?

The Illinois State Police will typically only object to your petition if you are ineligible under Illinois law. The State's Attorney may object either due to statutory grounds (ineligible under Illinois law) or discretionary grounds. In other words, the State's Attorney may object even if you are eligible for expungement or sealing under the law. Discretionary grounds may include your prior arrest history (lengthy criminal record), nature of the offense you are trying to expunge or seal, any crimes of violence, orders of protection or the unsatisfactory completion of your sentence.

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 State's case (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; and
  • (E) the specific adverse consequences to the petitioner 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-six 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 your prior 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 Chicago 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, you can obtain a copy of your RAP Sheet at the Chicago Police Department Access and Review Division. If any of your arrests were outside of Chicago, within Illinois, after fingerprinting at CPD, your statewide background report will be mailed to you.

For Adult and Juvenile Records:

  • Chicago Police Department
  • 3510 S. Michigan Avenue
  • First Floor
  • Chicago, IL 60653
  • (312) 745-5570

The fee to obtain your rap sheet is $16 for Adult RAP Sheets and free for Juvenile RAP Sheets. Fingerprints are taken Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Pick-up time is daily from 8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.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 Criminal History Record 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

You may also obtain your Criminal History Record from a Live Scan (fingerprint) location as described below.

What if I am unable to report in person to the Chicago Police Department to get my Criminal History Record?

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, the easiest way to obtain your Criminal History Record is by visiting a Live Scan (fingerprint) location near your home. You can search for locations at www.accuratebiometrics.com.

Once you have received your rap sheet and/or criminal history record, 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. Our expungement and sealing attorneys have helped hundreds of clients obtain a fresh start throughout Illinois including Cook County, Lake County and DuPage County. Contact us today to discuss your case.

Do I need to submit to a drug test?

Your petition must include a clean drug test within 30 days of filing only if you are requesting to expunge or seal a case resulting in qualified probation (such as 710-1410 Probation, TASC Probation, or Second Chance Probation). A clean drug test is also required if you are filing a petition to seal a conviction for a felony drug offense such as possession of a controlled substance, manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance, or possession with intent to deliver. You do not need a drug test if you are filing a petition to dismiss a felony drug case or a petition to seal a misdemeanor drug conviction. You can obtain the drug test at your doctor or any other provider of your choosing. It must be a 5 panel drug test.

What happens after a case is expunged or sealed?

Once a judge signs an order to expunge or seal, the Clerk of the Circuit Court will remove all records from their system including their public access system so the information does not appear on a background check. A search in the Clerk's system will not yield any results as if the case never occurred. The physical files are impounded by the Clerk of the Circuit Court and only available through a court order.

Expunged records are destroyed by the arresting agency and the Illinois State Police. Qualified probation cases that are expunged are still available to law enforcement.

Sealed records are not destroyed by the Illinois State Police, they are available to law enforcement. Only sealed felony conviction records are available to specific employers that are authorized by law to conduct fingerprint-based background checks through the Illinois State Police.

The Illinois State Police also forwards the order to the FBI.

If an expunged or sealed record shows up on my background check, what are my rights?

The Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits employers from using an expunged or sealed record against you in an employment decision. Employers cannot discriminate against you for information that they obtain relating to expunged or sealed records. If you face adverse action based on this information, the Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles you to a copy of the background check. Request a copy from your prospective employer or landlord if you are denied a job or housing based on a criminal background check.

If you receive a copy of a criminal background check that contains inaccurate information, send the company a copy of the Judge's expungement or sealing order with a letter requesting that they no longer release this information and remove it from their database.

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