How to Start a Case to Expunge or Seal a Criminal Record

Having a criminal record can hold you back. It can prevent you from getting a job, finding a decent place to live, or even getting credit from a creditor. If you’re like many people, you want to know how to start a case to expunge or seal your record so that it can’t hold you back any longer.

Here’s what to do.

How to Start a Case to Expunge or Seal a Criminal Record in Illinois

There are two ways you can start a case to expunge or seal your criminal record. The first – and most common for readers of this site – is to hire a Chicago expungement lawyer who will handle the whole process. The second way to start your case is to handle it yourself. You can use a do-it-yourself expungement and sealing service that provides you with all the forms you need, tells you how to fill them out and gives you directions on how to file them.

If you hire an expungement attorney, he’ll handle every aspect of your case. If you’re doing it yourself, you’ll have to follow these steps, which can be pretty time-consuming:

  1. Get copies of your criminal records. You’ll have to get your entire criminal record – everything – so you can submit your petition for expungement or sealing. That may require you to go to different courthouses, depending on where you were arrested and where you went to trial.
  2. Check your entire criminal record. You’ll have to figure out which items on your criminal record qualify for expungement or sealing (some things qualify for either, but many offenses can’t be expunged).
  3. Fill out the right forms. You must fill out your forms properly, accurately and completely in order for the court to accept them.
  4. File the forms. You have to file specific forms in specific places. The rules and forms for Cook County are different from those in other nearby counties, so you have to make sure you’re using the right documents and turning them in to the right people.
  5. Pay your filing fee. You’ll have to pay a filing fee when you turn in your forms to start your expungement or sealing case. If you have to file in multiple counties, you’ll have to pay separate fees for each county. You’ll need to get in touch with the Circuit Court Clerk to find out how much the fee is for your county, and to find out what payment types they accept.

These five steps start your expungement or sealing case. From there, you’ll have to wait for the state’s attorney to get a copy of your petition, and he or she has the chance to object. If the state’s attorney objects, you may be entitled to a hearing. After your petition makes its way through the legal system, it’ll eventually end up on a judge’s desk. The judge has the final say in whether you can expunge or seal your criminal records.

Related: Should you expunge your own criminal record?

For most people, it’s easiest to hire an attorney. However, DIY options are available – and DIY expungement is cheaper than hiring a lawyer. If you choose a DIY expungement or sealing service, make sure you pick one that offers you all the court forms you need for any jurisdiction in Illinois, provides written and video instructions on how to use those forms, and gives you access to an attorney when you have questions about a specific situation.

Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About How to Start an Expungement or Sealing Case?

If you need to talk to a lawyer about your options, whether you’re ready to hire someone to clear your record or you want to do it yourself and save money, we can help. Call us at 847-920-4540 for a free consultation now, or fill out the form below and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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