Expungement and sealing aren’t interchangeable terms. They both have the same goal, though: to limit or prevent other people from having access to your criminal record. There are some fundamental differences, however, and you need to know about them if you have any kind of criminal record – even if you’ve been arrested but never charged with a crime.
So what’s the difference between an expungement and a criminal record sealing in Illinois?
Expungement vs. Sealing
Expungement is what happens when a judge orders that your records be destroyed or that they are returned to you. It’s like starting fresh with a clean slate. That also means that people can’t access your records – there’s nothing there for them to access.
Potential employers, landlords, lenders and the general public will never know that you were even arrested unless you tell them.
Criminal record sealing is more like tucking the files away and preventing most people from accessing them. The general public won’t be able to find records that have been sealed, but the agencies that created them can still retain copies.
Very few people are allowed access to sealed records. Those who are allowed include law enforcement personnel and a handful of potential employers (like the military, people hiring for schools and health care providers).
Some things cannot be expunged but can be sealed, including some drug possession charges, prostitution and felony arrests that never resulted in prosecution. It’s always best to check with your Chicago expungement attorney to figure out whether you qualify for an expungement or if you can seal your criminal record – he’ll know exactly what to do in your situation.
Expungement in Chicago
Governor Pat Quinn recently signed legislation that expunges juvenile arrest records once the arrestees turn 18. If that doesn’t apply to you but you still want to move forward with a clean slate, call a lawyer who handles expungements in Chicago, Rolling Meadows, Skokie and Schaumberg – it might be the best decision you ever make.