Can You File for Expungement Without a Lawyer?
Expungement of criminal records is a way of removing the record of criminal charges from your public record. While this is quite common for juvenile offenses, it can be much more difficult to have adult offenses expunged. Having a record expunged limits access to your criminal record, but it is not widely available, particularly for adult offenses. If expunged, a record is confidential and access is limited to law enforcement and sentencing purposes. Expunged or sealed records cannot be released publicly under most circumstances. However, some employers still may have access to such records under special circumstances, such as if a person applies for employment with a school or daycare.
The process of expungement has been simplified in recent years, but access remains limited for adult offenses. While juvenile offenses are more easily expunged, there are strict limits on what adult charges can be expunged. Because of this complexity—rather than the process itself, which is reasonably straightforward—it is possible to file for expungement without using a lawyer, but it might not be the greatest idea.
Expungement Is Available for Adults Only in Limited Situations
Expungement of a criminal record essentially means that the record is destroyed, at least as far as the public is concerned. The record still may be accessed under certain circumstances for employment or law enforcement purposes, but for the most part, an expunged record no longer exists. However, not all criminal records can be expunged. In fact, you cannot get any record expunged if you actually were convicted. In fact, having a conviction on your record could prevent you from having other records expunged even if they did not involve a conviction.
Even if you have been convicted of a crime, it still could be possible to have that record expunged. If the offense is eligible for a diversion program or other supervised program, and the charge is dismissed, you generally can get that record expunged if you successfully complete that program. Under diversion programs, you are convicted, but judgment is not entered pending you going through the diversion program. At the successful completion of the program, the charge is dismissed.
However, there are some crimes where you cannot get the record expunged, even if you complete a diversion or supervised program. These include:
- Driving under the influence
- Any sex offense against a minor
- Reckless driving, if you were 25 or older at the time
The list is not exclusive. There are other situations where your criminal record cannot be expunged, such as:
- Any federal or state conviction outside Illinois
- Sentences you have not yet completed. This includes any parole, probation, or court supervision that might be part of your sentence
- Minor traffic offenses, unless you were only issued a warning or otherwise were not charged, or the charge was dismissed
- Any convictions, including misdemeanors and felonies, for which you did not successfully complete a diversion program. If the conviction was reversed, vacated, pardoned, or the Prisoner Review Board has approved a Certificate of Eligibility for Expungement.
- Convictions for which court supervision, qualified probation, or some other diversion program was not completed
While this considerably narrows the range of offenses that can be expunged, there nonetheless remain many aspects of your criminal record that can be expunged. The question then becomes, how do you go about that, and can you do it on your own?
Will You Need a Lawyer to Expunge a Charge?
Illinois, through the office of the State Appellate Defender and the state Supreme Court-created Access to Justice Commission, has made major steps to make the expungement process more user-friendly. The two offices have worked together to create forms to apply for expungement or sealing of criminal records that are accepted statewide. They also have established a process that is relatively straightforward. Straightforward doesn’t mean simple, though. The multistep process includes a number of steps that many people will find intimidating, maybe even difficult. The steps include:
- Get copies of your criminal records, including all information about any arrests, charges, and disposition of those charges in court, then review your records to determine what can be expunged or sealed
- Fill out the forms, which are available online, then file the forms with the Clerk of Court in the county where you were arrested or faced charges. If that includes more than one county, you must file separately in each of those counties (or in each district of Cook County that is appropriate). You can file online, in person or by mail. The various law enforcement agencies involved in your criminal cases, including prosecutors and the state police, will receive a notice of your filing and have a chance to object.
- Go to court if a hearing is scheduled. Even if you are eligible, the court does not automatically approve the request. If a court date is scheduled, take photo identification, copies of your criminal records, copies of your expungement request form, stamped by the clerk of court where they were filed, copies of the orders regarding your request available online, information on your employment history, and any other pertinent information, such as proof of completing a treatment program, proof of education or degrees, letters of recommendation, or other documents that could support your petition.
- It is possible you will be required to testify, and you will be allowed to bring witnesses. This is where things start to get beyond the abilities of most people. Not only could you find yourself representing yourself at a court hearing, if your request is denied you will have to pursue a request for reconsideration or an appeal of the decision.
And that’s the simplified version. Most people cannot navigate the process on their own—it is not something most people have experience with and it can prove daunting. Having experienced assistance in the process could make the difference between expunging your record or still having a criminal record.
Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Martin & Kent, L.L.C. for Assistance With Filing for Expungement of Charges
If you are attempting to have your criminal record expunged, you should consider seeking experienced assistance. Starting with determining whether you are eligible all the way to handling your court hearing to maximize your likelihood of success, an experienced team on your side could make a world of difference. The criminal attorneys of Martin & Kent, L.L.C., have extensive experience, including considerable years as felony prosecutors. With their knowledge of the system, they will put forth their best effort on your behalf. For a consultation in DuPage, Kane, or Cook County, contact them 24 hours a day at (630) 474-8000.