Navigating Illinois Law: Expungement vs. Sealing, Explained

In Illinois, clearing your criminal record can be achieved through either expungement or sealing, but they aren’t the same. Understanding these differences can significantly impact your future, from job opportunities to personal peace of mind.

Navigating Illinois Law: Expungement vs. Sealing, Explained

When dealing with past criminal records, knowing your legal options is essential. This guide explains the following:

  • Expungement: completely clearing your record
  • Sealing: hiding your record from the public eye
  • Eligibility criteria for both processes
  • The legal implications of each
  • How to initiate either process

Here’s a closer look at each.

Expungement: Completely Clearing Your Record

Expungement in Illinois means completely destroying or returning your criminal record. It’s as if the offenses never occurred. This process generally applies to arrests, dropped charges, acquittals, and vacated convictions. Special provisions exist for veterans, enhancing their eligibility under certain conditions.

Sealing: Hiding Your Record from the Public Eye

Sealing your record doesn’t erase it but makes it inaccessible to most of the public. Law enforcement and other government bodies can still view these records under specific conditions, like fingerprint-based background checks. This option covers more types of convictions than expungement, though it excludes violent crimes, DUIs, and some cases of reckless driving.

Eligibility Criteria for Both Processes

Understanding who qualifies for expungement or sealing is crucial. While expungement has a narrower eligibility scope, sealing offers a broader range of people the chance to hide their past criminal records. Both processes have specific criteria, which include the nature of the offense and the time elapsed since the case was closed.

The Legal Implications of Each

Choosing between expungement and sealing depends on your long-term goals and the specifics of your record. Expungement provides a complete reset, ideal for those eligible, while sealing might be more attainable for others and still offers significant benefits.

How to Initiate Either Process

Starting the process involves gathering relevant documents, filing a petition with the court, and sometimes, attending a hearing. It can be complex, so consulting with a knowledgeable expungement and sealing lawyer may be a good idea.

FAQ About Expungement and Sealing

Check out these commonly asked questions about expungement and sealing. If you don’t see your question here, please call our office and we’ll find you the answers you need.

What is the First Step in Applying for Expungement or Sealing?

The first step is to confirm your eligibility, which can vary based on your record and the specifics of your case.

How Long Does the Expungement or Sealing Process Take?

The duration can vary widely, often taking several months depending on the complexity of your record and the court’s backlog.

Can Sealing Affect My Future Employment Opportunities?

While sealed records are hidden from most public background checks, certain employers, like those in government, may still access these records.

What Are the Costs Involved in Expungement or Sealing?

Costs can include filing fees, attorney fees, and sometimes fees for obtaining court records or conducting background checks.

Is Legal Assistance Necessary for Expungement or Sealing?

While you can file for expungement or sealing on your own, legal guidance is often beneficial to help you navigate the process.

Clearing your criminal record through expungement or sealing can be a transformative step toward a brighter future. Understanding and navigating the legal landscape is crucial, and professional guidance can be invaluable in these efforts.

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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