To “expunge” is to “erase or remove completely.” In law, “expungement” is the process by which a record of criminal conviction is destroyed from state record. An expungement order directs the court to treat the criminal conviction as if it had never occurred, essentially removing it from a defendant's criminal record as well as, ideally, the public record. In the United States, virtually all expungement proceedings take place in state courts. Expungement orders from federal courts are extremely rare, and there is no federal statute governing its application at the federal level.
In Illinois, “expunging” and “sealing” a criminal record are two different things. Sealed records are not destroyed, but are kept confidential. The general public will not usually have access to your sealed record, but law enforcement agencies will still be able to see it.
What types of offenses can be expunged?
The following types of arrests, charges, or sentences can be expunged:
- Arrests for misdemeanors and felonies that did not result in a conviction.
- Convictions for misdemeanors and felonies only if:
- They were reversed or vacated;
- They were pardoned; or
- You are an honorably discharged veteran. You must also have a Certificate of Eligibility for Expungement from the Prisoner Review Board.
- Sentences for supervision if the waiting period has passed.
- Sentences for supervision for reckless driving if you were under 25 at the time and are over 25 now.
- Sentences of qualified probation, if 5 years have passed.
What types of offenses cannot be expunged?
The following types of arrests, charges, or sentences cannot be expunged:
- Minor traffic offenses, unless you were released without being charged.
- Convictions for misdemeanors and felonies unless they were:
- Pardoned; or
- Approved by the Prisoner Review Board.
- Court supervision or qualified probation that was not completed.
- Court supervision for the following offenses:
- Reckless driving (if you were 25 or older at the time);
- Driving under the influence; or
- Sexual offenses against minors
Once you've determined that you're eligible to expunge, you can file a petition with the courthouse. You'll have to pay a fee, and you'll have to wait for the court to process your paperwork. You will receive a hearing date on which you'll meet with a judge to discuss your expungement.
An experienced attorney like John W Callahan can help you determine whether you're eligible. He will also help you fill out the paperwork properly and complete the necessary steps to get your record expunged. If you have a hearing, he will also go to court and speak on your behalf.