Expungement vs. Sealing: Which is Right for You?

If you’re like many people, you know that Illinois provides people the opportunity to clear their criminal records in some cases. However, expungement and sealing aren’t available in every case – and sometimes only one is an option. This guide explains the following:

  1. What is expungement in Illinois?
  2. What is sealing in Illinois?
  3. The differences between expungement and sealing
  4. Who can get their record expunged or sealed?
  5. How to get your record expunged or sealed
  6. The benefits of expungement or sealing a criminal record in Illinois

Here’s a closer look at each.

What is Expungement in Illinois?

Expungement is the process of completely wiping out your criminal record. When you expunge your criminal record, it’s as if the arrest or charge never happened – no one can access it and employers, landlords, and other institutions won’t be able to find it.

Related: Do dropped charges show up on your criminal record?

What is Sealing in Illinois?

Sealing a criminal record is similar to expungement, but it’s not as far-reaching. In most cases, sealing hides your criminal record from public view – meaning employers and other institutions may not be able to see it upon an inquiry into your background. However, law enforcement agencies can still access sealed records when necessary. Some others may also access your records, such as those working in an official capacity within the judicial system and some employers (such as those that run fingerprint-based background checks for security reasons).

The Difference Between Expungement and Sealing

The main difference between expungement and sealing is the complete eradication versus hiding of the records. When you expunge a criminal record, it’s as if it never happened – no one can access it. However, when you seal a criminal record, it may still be accessible in certain situations.

Related: How soon should you clear your record before looking for a job?

Who Can Get Their Record Expunged or Sealed?

The eligibility requirements for expungement and sealing vary depending on the type of offense, but generally, it depends on whether you were found guilty or not. If you’re convicted of a misdemeanor, you may be eligible to have your record expunged after five years. For felonies, the wait time is typically 10 years. If you weren’t found guilty or the charges were dismissed, you may be able to have your record expunged immediately or after a shorter wait period (depending on the offense).

How to Get Your Record Expunged or Sealed

The process of getting your record expunged or sealed can vary depending on the type of offense and the court you were charged in. Generally, you’ll need to file a petition with the court that handled your case. You may also need to provide fingerprints, answer questions on an application form, pay a fee, and attend a hearing.

Related: What information shows up on an employment background check?

The Benefits of Expunging or Sealing a Criminal Record in Illinois

Expunging or sealing a criminal record can provide many benefits, including improved job prospects, better housing opportunities, and even the ability to travel outside of the United States. Expunging or sealing your record can have a significant positive impact on your life – so if you’re eligible, it’s definitely worth considering.

Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Expungement or Sealing?

If you’re tired of your criminal past coming back to bite you, we may be able to help. Call us right now at 847-920-4540 or fill out the form below so we can talk about your case.

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