Can I Expunge My Criminal Record in Illinois?

Updated on August 13, 2021
Updated: May 23, 2022

Many people charged with misdemeanor convictions or felony convictions don't realize that an arrest can become part of their criminal record, regardless of the final verdict. Fortunately, you can have this public record erased through the process of expungement. 

Expungement is the process of having your public criminal records physically destroyed or returned to you and of removing the conviction records from public view. However, if your public criminal records are sealed, they aren't physically destroyed. Sealed criminal records aren't obtainable without a court order and are removed from official records. It's essential to note that both expunged or sealed criminal records aren't visible in background checks.

Potential employers might not consider expunged or sealed records when determining employment and they can't ask an applicant if he or she has had criminal history records expunged or sealed. ​If you're considering expunging or sealing your criminal records, our experienced Cook County criminal defense attorneys can help you. Contact our Cook County criminal defense law firm today at (708) 232-0017.

What Crimes Can Be Expunged in Illinois?

The Illinois Criminal Identification Act governs criminal record expungement and sealing of criminal records in Illinois. If you have never been convicted of a criminal offense, your arrests or charges can be expunged from your arrest record. Thus, the arrest or charge you're seeking to have expunged must have resulted in:

  • Acquittal, dismissal of charges, or a release without being charged; 
  • A reversed or vacated conviction; 
  • Completed qualified probation; or
  • Completed court supervision. 

In Illinois, qualified probation may include:

  • Probation for first-time drug violations of the Illinois Controlled Substance Act or the Cannabis Control Act; 
  • Certain first offender probations listed in the Criminal Identification Act; 
  • Second Chance Probation;   and
  • “Offender Initiative Program” probation.

‍ Conviction of criminal offense bar’s expungement for the offense of which you were convicted. Also, a criminal conviction disqualifies you for requests for expungement of any other arrests or charges on your record.  A conviction is a judgment of a conviction or sentence entered after pleading guilty or upon a verdict or finding of guilt of a criminal offense. Qualified probation and completed court supervision aren't considered criminal convictions. You can always expunge a criminal record after you're declared “factually innocent” of the criminal charge by clear and convincing evidence, even though there are other criminal convictions on your public record. 

Contact our attorneys to discuss expunging your criminal record.

‍It's imperative to note that minor traffic offenses aren't considered criminal offenses that would prevent expungement. However, if you're convicted for drunk driving, reckless driving, driving on a suspended or revoked license, or driving without a valid license, none of your record of arrest or criminal charges can be expunged.

However, if you don't have a criminal conviction, you can have your criminal record history or charges expunged, except:

  • Completed supervision for impaired driving;
  • Completed supervision for sex offenses against minors; and
  • Completed supervision for negligent driving unless you committed the offense before you turned 25 years old and there are no other reckless driving or drunk driving offenses on your record).  

Although you completed court supervision for these offenses can't be expunged, court supervision for these offenses won't bar expungement of other criminal records, because the court supervision doesn't count as a conviction. 

Further, it's imperative to note that minor traffic offenses can't be expunged unless you were arrested and released without charge. Finally, juvenile convictions don't bar expungement. 

What Does Sealing of Criminal Records Mean?

If you're convicted of certain offenses in Illinois, your public criminal records might be sealed, even though expungement isn't available. Here's an extensive list of Class 4 and Class 3 Felony offenses that can be sealed:

  • Possession of marijuana;
  • Possession of a controlled substance; 
  • Prostitution;
  • Offenses under the Steroid Control Act; 
  • Offenses under the Methamphetamine Precursor Control Act; 
  • Theft and retail theft; 
  • Possession of burglary tools;
  • Deceptive practices; and 
  • Forgery.

‍Except for the felony offenses listed above, felonies cannot be sealed, with certain limited exceptions. 

Many misdemeanor offenses can be sealed, except for the:

  • Sexual assault committed against minors; 
  • Intoxicated driving; 
  • Reckless driving unless if charge occurred when you were under the age of 25; 
  • Criminal sexual abuse; 
  • Patronizing a prostitute; 
  • Minor traffic offenses; 
  • Public indecency; 
  • Violation of an order of protection;
  • Domestic battery; and
  • Dogfighting.

‍The applicable waiting period for sealing criminal records depends on the type of offense. Some public criminal records can be sealed right away, while others offenses require two years, three years, or 25-year waiting periods. Further, some criminal records may only be sealed after reaching certain education milestones.  

Often, people choose to seal criminal records because expungement is not available. However, for some criminal records, sealing carries a shorter waiting period than expungement, so you might opt to seal your records for this reason and expunged them later.  

When Can I Expunge My Criminal Record?

Acquittals, dismissals, or releases without a conviction and reversals of a charge can be expunged immediately, and don’t require a waiting period. 

‍Two years must lapse from the termination of the court supervision for all criminal offenses except for the following offenses, which carry a 5-year waiting period:

  • Domestic battery. It’s imperative to note that court supervision is no longer allowed as a sentence for domestic battery;
  • Operating an uninsured motor vehicle;
  • Displaying invalid insurance; 
  • Criminal sexual abuse; and
  • Scrap processor’s violation of record-keeping requirements.  

Also, five years must pass from the termination of “qualified probation” before you can file an expungement petition.

What is the Procedure of Expunging or Sealing Your Criminal Records?

‍Criminal record expungement and sealing processes are almost identical. First, the offender must file a petition and pay a filing fee with the circuit clerk in the county where the arrests took place or the charges were brought. If the offender was arrested or charged in multiple counties, then they must file a petition in each of those counties. If the criminal offender falls below federal poverty guidelines, they may qualify to have the filing fee waived. 

Can I Expunge My Criminal Record in Illinois?

‍The circuit clerk will serve petition notice to the State’s Attorney or the prosecutor who prosecuted the criminal offense, the Department of State Police, the chief legal officer of the unit of local government that made the arrest, and the arresting law enforcement agency. Any of these legal agencies can file an objection to the petition within 60 days after being served with the notice.  

The judge will then hold a hearing, and if there are no objections to the petition, the judge could enter an order granting the petition. Even if you qualify for expungement or sealing, the judge will have the power to grant or deny your petition.  ​

How Much is it to Get Your Record Expunged in Illinois?

In Cook County, an application for expungement costs at least $120 just for the legal paperwork to be submitted in the simplest cases.

Attorney counseling fees to help you get the legal paperwork done properly depends on the complexity of your criminal case, but expect most attorneys in Chicago to charge you a minimum of $500 just to get into your case, and more if the case is complex.

How Long Does it Take for a Public Criminal Record to be Expunged in Illinois?

If you qualify for expungement, there are specific procedures you must follow. The time frame you need to wait to file for a request for expungement depends on the type of criminal offense in question. Again, you must wait between two and five years before filing to have your record expunged. There’s no waiting period for arrests that didn’t end with a guilty verdict.

If you complete court supervision, you have to wait two years with no exceptions after your last sentence to file for a petition to expunge that supervision. If you’re convicted of certain non-felony offenses that are eligible for expungement, you can seal your record three years after the end of your last sentence. Further, in Cook County, Illinois you must wait five years to file a petition to expunge court supervision for certain offenses. Our experienced attorneys can help you establish which category your type of crime belongs to. For instance, if you finish probation for a first-time DUI offense, you must wait five years from your last sentence before you file for an expungement.

After filing the petition, the state police department, the state’s attorney and all other notified law enforcement agencies have 60 days to object. If the judge grants the petition, a court order is entered, and all state agencies have 60 days to expunge or seal your record. Thus, the entire process takes approximately six months.

At Tommalieh Law, our Chicago expungement lawyers have a proven track record of helping criminal offenders with expungement in Chicago and we can help you, too. Our criminal defense lawyers have represented clients seeking criminal record expungement and record sealing in Cook County, DuPage County, Lake County, McHenry County, Kane County, Kendall County, and throughout the Chicagoland area. For a free initial consultation with one of our experienced and skilled expungement attorneys, contact our Cook County criminal defense law firm today at (708) 232-0017, or fill the contact form below to learn how we can help.  

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