If you have ever been arrested, you have a criminal record – even if the state of Illinois dropped the charges against you. Here’s what you need to know.
Do I Have a Criminal Record if My Charges Were Dropped?
As soon as someone is arrested and brought to jail, their information is entered into the police database. (On TV, they call it “booking” someone.) When your information goes into the police database, a criminal record is created. That criminal record remains in the system unless you do something about it; that means your arrest will always be on file unless you ask a court to remove it or hide it.
Sometimes the police release someone without charging them. If this happens to you, you still have the arrest on your record – but you’re eligible under Illinois law to ask the court to erase the record (expungement) or hide it from the public (sealing).
Related: An overview of expungement in Chicago
However, in other cases, the police charge the person with a crime. One of two things can happen if you’re charged with a crime. The first is that the state can drop the charges against you and let you go free; the second is that the state can pursue the charges against you and take you to court over them.
If the state drops your charges, you’re free to ask the court to expunge your criminal record. (You can also ask the court to seal it. Both processes are similar, but expunging erases the record forever while sealing simply hides it from most people.)
Related: Expunge your own Illinois criminal record here
If the state doesn’t drop your charges and takes you to court, you must wait for a judge to rule in your case. If you’re found not guilty of the crime, you can ask the court to expunge your record right away. If you’re found guilty, you may not be eligible for expungement – most convictions have to stay on your record forever (though many can be sealed).
This means that even if your charges were dropped or you were found not guilty of a crime, you still have a criminal record that contains all this information. The only way to get this information off your record is to ask a judge to expunge it. Alternatively, you can ask the judge to hide the information from public view by sealing it.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Expunging or Sealing Your Criminal Record?
If you need to speak with an attorney about clearing your criminal record, we may be able to help you. Call us at 847-920-4540 now or fill out the form below for a free consultation.
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