CLEAR YOUR RECORD: ILLINOIS EXPUNGEMENT ATTORNEY
When you face criminal charges, your focus may understandably be on the possibility of time in prison, fines, loss of your driver’s license, and other immediate penalties. However, having a conviction on your permanent criminal record can haunt you long after you finish probation, pay your fines, or get out of jail. Many people fail to consider the lasting effects of a criminal record until they begin to experience them personally.
The good news is that if you meet certain eligibility requirements, you may be able to get an expungement of your criminal record and attain a clean start. Your criminal record includes court records about your criminal case’s outcome and police records about your arrest. Criminal records are accessible to the public, which includes potential employers, landlords, and academic admissions counselors. An expungement makes your record inaccessible to such parties.
While not everyone is eligible for an expungement of their criminal record in Illinois, many people are surprised to learn they can clear their name and make life substantially easier. The expungement process is not a simple one, however, and it is important to have the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer who understands how to obtain expungements in Illinois.
At Martin & Kent, L.L.C., our attorneys have worked within the Illinois criminal justice system for decades. We understand every aspect of the criminal process—from arrests to expungements. We are available to review your situation and advise you whether you may qualify for an expungement. Please call our office today at (630) 474-8000 for a free consultation.
CAN I EXPUNGE MY CRIMINAL RECORD?
Questions about expungement are understandably common. When anyone with a past conviction hears of the possibility of having the records erased, the first instinct is to find out if their situation qualifies. A criminal record can permanently disqualify you from many types of employment and can also interfere with the ability to get approval for student loans or certain housing. A finding of guilty, even if not resulting in a conviction, could also negatively affect your chance to work in certain vocations like law enforcement or teaching.
We all deserve a second chance to move past our mistakes, and expunging your old case or cases is the best way to do that. Upon a successful expungement, all records of the arrest are destroyed, including police reports, fingerprints and booking photos. Your name and case number are erased from the circuit clerk’s office database as well. The general public and even law enforcement will be unable to view your case after it is expunged.
You may only file to expunge cases prosecuted in Illinois’s courts. Federal and out-of-state cases cannot be expunged or sealed through the process in Illinois.
Cases that may qualify for expungement include:
- First Offender Probation for felony Possession of Cannabis / Controlled Substances
- TASC Probation for certain felony cases
- Misdemeanor cases where you received court supervision
- Cases that concluded in the dismissal of charges
- Cases that concluded with a “not guilty” verdict
Illinois 2014 Expungement Law also expands to certain Class 4 felony drug offenses and Class 3 or 4 theft, retail theft, or charges of criminal damage to property. Individuals facing these charges can now receive special probation that, if completed successfully, can lead to the expungement of the case.
The first step in any case is to determine whether your situation qualifies for an expungement or sealing of your record. This can be a complex determination in itself, as the criteria for expungements is complicated and extremely specific. If you are unsure whether you qualify and you apply anyway, you can waste time and money. It is always better to have a knowledgeable attorney evaluate your situation and advise you of your options under Illinois law.
THE EXPUNGEMENT PROCESS
To receive an expungement, you must petition the court. Once the court decides to remove your arrest and criminal record, you will never have to disclose your prior arrest because it will no longer be part of the public record. While you cannot get misdemeanor and felony convictions expunged, you can get some of them sealed. This means that only law enforcement personnel can see your record.
The expungement process begins when you file a complete and accurate petition and filing fee with the county court in which your criminal case took place. After you file, prosecutors have 60 days to object to an expungement based on a variety of reasons. If the state objects, you can have a hearing during which your attorney challenges the basis for the objection and presents facts and arguments why you should qualify for the expungement. If a judge grants your expungement, it can take up to 60 days for law enforcement agencies to process the expungement and destroy records of your arrests, charges, and convictions.
If you have a strong petition for expungement and you still receive a denial, you have the opportunity to appeal the decision. You can either petition for the judge to reconsider or for the Appellate Court to review the lower judge’s denial. In these situations, it is essential to have an experienced lawyer as appeals can be extraordinarily complicated. You should always seek assistance from a criminal lawyer who understands this complex appeals process and how to stand up for your eligibility for an expungement. To avoid the need for an appeal, you should contact an attorney before you even start the expungement process.
The Benefits of Obtaining an Expungement
As mentioned above, an arrest record or criminal conviction can affect your life in many different ways. The effects of a criminal case do not end when you complete your sentence, and there are many, many possible collateral consequences that can continue for years to come.
Having your record expunged or sealed can provide many benefits for you, including:
- Current or potential employers will not be able to see that you had a criminal case, so they will not use that information in making hiring decisions. In addition, if a potential employer asks about criminal convictions on a job application, you can honestly answer “no” post-expungement. This is critical because many employers do not want to hire anyone with a criminal record, whether or not you have a conviction or simply an arrest. Many people may lose jobs during the criminal process due to time in jail, so ensuring you have future employment opportunities is imperative.
- If your conviction prevented you from working in certain positions or industries, you will again be eligible for those jobs after an expungement. For example, certain convictions for battery or assault will make you ineligible to work with children or in positions caring for disabled adults or seniors. Convictions for theft crimes can prevent you from working any jobs that require handling money. If you qualify for an expungement, it can help you work in your chosen profession again.
- Landlords will not have access to any information about arrests or convictions and, therefore, will likely not deny you from renting housing based on concerns about criminal activity. Many landlords refuse to rent to tenants with criminal histories, especially drug or assault-related convictions. An expungement will make it easier to find suitable housing to rent.
- You will not have to disclose your arrest or conviction on certain applications for higher education programs or professional licenses. Many careers require years of school, after which you must obtain a professional license. Licensing boards will conduct a criminal background check and will certainly consider your criminal history when deciding whether to grant you a professional license to practice law or medicine, work in accounting, teach, and many other professions. If you already have a professional license, a criminal record may put that license in jeopardy.
- If you have a drug-related offense expunged, you may now qualify for federal financial aid for school or public benefits. This can include federal financial aid for college and other subsidies. You may also qualify for collegiate athletic programs and scholarships not available for students with criminal records.
- Some conviction may make it difficult to travel to other countries. For example, Canada bars entrance to anyone with a felony conviction—and the Canadian government considers a DUI to be a felony. This can be especially concerning if you have to travel for work or other obligations. Having a DUI or similar conviction expunged can reopen travel opportunities to such countries.
These are only some of the many benefits that can come from clearing your name. It is always worth it to look into the possibility of an expungement if your record is holding you back or otherwise affecting your life.
Remember that you do not have to have a conviction to seek an expungement. An arrest may be enough to limit your opportunities. Expunging your arrest record can help just as much as expunging a conviction in some situations. If police officers falsely arrested you, you may expect that your arrest will be automatically expunged. Unfortunately, this is not the case, even if authorities admitted the arrest was a mistake. You will still have to proactively seek an expungement to clear your record. Too many people assume that a non-conviction arrest or charge will not continue to affect them until they learn the hard way that even an arrest can limit their opportunities.
There is no requirement that you have a defense attorney’s help to apply for an expungement. However, the process and requirements can be confusing, and your chances of obtaining an expungement may often increase with the assistance of the right criminal defense law firm.
Pardons in Illinois
Many people have criminal records that do not qualify for an expungement or sealing. What they may not realize is that there is one more option for those in this situation—seeking a pardon. You must petition the office of the governor of Illinois for a pardon, which is also called executive clemency. While anyone can submit a petition for a pardon, the governor has discretion whether to grant or deny your request. You want to submit the most thorough petition possible that supports your request for a pardon.
A pardon petition requires you to compile large amounts of information, both personal and criminal. You may need to file supporting documents with your petition to bolster your case. Other people may provide statements to support your petition. You should always seek the assistance of an Illinois attorney who can guide you through the process of preparing a persuasive petition.
After filing your petition, you will have a pardon hearing. You can testify and have others testify on your behalf, as well. Like any court hearing, having the right legal representation is critical. Hearings have certain rules and procedures, and an attorney can prepare you for the hearing and represent you during the process.
If the governor reviews the information presented and grants your pardon, it will destroy your criminal record, making it unavailable to law enforcement and any parties conducting a criminal background check. If you receive a denial, you must wait a full year before applying again in the absence of significant new evidence in your favor.
Expungements, sealing, and pardons can all improve your opportunities. However, these are not easy to obtain, and your chances may improve with the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney. It is worth it to discuss your options to protect your future.
OBTAIN TRUSTED LEGAL HELP TODAY!
Clearing your record demands acute attention to detail. First, you must make sure that you are eligible to have your record expunged and next, you must make sure you file all paperwork properly. If you fail to file the necessary paperwork, you could waste valuable time and money. Since only certain types of records and cases can be expunged, it is imperative that you speak with our DuPage County criminal defense attorneys today about the details surrounding your case.
After we have evaluated your situation, our legal team will be able to explain to you all of your options. We guide many clients successfully through the expungement process so they can experience the benefits of once again having a clean criminal record. Call Martin & Kent, L.L.C., for a free consultation today at (630) 474-8000!
RELATED PRACTICE TOPIC
A Wheaton client who was arrested for domestic battery got her case dismissed for lack of prosecution. The arrest expungement was immediately filed by M&K lawyers.Case Results