Record Sealing in Illinois Offers Ex-Offenders and Others a Better Opportunity at EmploymentPublished: May 23, 2016, by in Criminal Defense, Legal Blog
The criminal justice system is designed to arrest, convict, and punish individuals who are guilty of committing crimes. In theory, once you have served your time or complied with the terms of your sentencing, your criminal past should be behind you and you should be able to move forward without continued punishment by society.
However, in practice, this is not always the case. In fact, even if you were charged, but never found guilty of the offense, your arrest and charge still remain a part of your criminal record and can be viewed by the general public. In Illinois, you may have some options for getting your record sealed, a process some may refer to as expungement, and avoiding the lifelong stigma of an arrest and charge. However, the process can be complicated and should be pursued with the help of a Chicago expungement lawyer.
Criminal Record Sealing in Illinois
In Illinois, you acquire a criminal record once you’re arrested, even if your charges are dismissed or you are found not guilty. The process of having your record sealed involves a petition to a judge, who will make the determination as to whether you qualify for record sealing. If granted, all or part of your record will be sealed and can only be viewed by law enforcement personnel or members of the public who received the permission of the court.
If you arrested, but not convicted, getting your record sealed may be possible. The circumstances under which you might be eligible to have your record sealed include:
- You were released without being charged;
- You were charged but acquitted;
- You were charged but the charges were dismissed; or
- Your conviction was vacated or reversed on appeal.
While being found not guilty is evidence that you did not commit the crime for which you were arrested or charged, individuals looking at the information tend to make certain judgments based on your record. An employer might believe that you hired a really good attorney, or you got off on a technicality, and may still view your criminal record as a red flag when you apply for a job.
If your record consists of actual convictions, getting your record sealed can be very difficult. Illinois limits the category of offenses that may qualify for record sealing. This list includes some Class 3 and 4 felonies, mainly related to offenses involving marijuana and prostitution.
There is a general waiting period of 3 years from the date of the end of your last sentence on your record before you can petition to have your record sealed. However, you may be able to get this waiting period waived if you earn certain educational achievement, such as a high school diploma or a degree, during or after your completing your sentence.
How Can Illinois Improve Record Sealing?
Not all crimes are created equal — and are not viewed equally under the law, particularly when it comes to eligibility for record sealing. Record sealing in Illinois is very limited and there is a school of thought that the law should be expanded to include certain non-violent offenses. There are many ex-offenders who committed crimes that were out of their character, and they subsequently have displayed a change in behavior and lifestyle that show they may be valuable members of the workforce. Since most employers are legitimately concerned about violent propensity, including more non-violent crimes to the list of those eligible for record sealing could be advantageous to all concerned.
Studies have shown that more than 50 percent of ex-offenders will return to a life of crime within the first three years following their release. The waiting time currently prescribed by law could be lowered to give ex-offenders a better chance of gainful employment.
There are a lot of opposing views for expanding the record sealing policy of Illinois, but society cannot escape the generational cycle of crime if individuals are not able to access employment, get a second chance, and become contributing citizens.
Talk to a Chicago Expungement Attorney Today
For years, Michael O’Meara has helped clients to get their criminal records sealed. He understands the importance of starting over and wanting to make better choices for yourself and your family. The Illinois record sealing process can be overwhelming to the average person and O’Meara is ready to help you with your petition. Call an experienced Chicago expungement attorney today to discuss the possibility of gaining a second chance.