Nate Nieman is an expungement attorney serving the entire state of Illinois. Contrary to popular belief, criminal convictions do not “come off your record” after a certain period of time. Criminal convictions are permanent unless they are challenged on appeal, post-conviction, or through the clemency process. Also contrary to popular belief, criminal convictions cannot be expunged (but they may be eligible to be sealed, which is a different procedure explained in detail below). Only cases that did not result in a criminal conviction are eligible for total expungement from your record. It is important to consult a qualified attorney who practices in this area prior to filing an expungement petition to determine whether your criminal offense is able to be expunged, sealed, or nothing at all. Below is an overview of Illinois expungement law and the most frequently asked questions.
What is expungement?
Expungement is a remedy provided by the legislature allowing people to eliminate records of a police encounter or criminal case that did not result in a conviction. The last part of this definition is important. If you were sentenced to probation, conditional discharge, a fine, or a term of imprisonment, then you have been convicted of an offense and cannot expunge your record through traditional methods. However, you may be eligible to seal the conviction or have it expunged through the executive clemency process.
What is eligible for expungement?
The statutory framework for Illinois’ expungement law is set forth in the Criminal Identification Act. According to Illinois law, the following police encounters or criminal case dispositions are eligible for expungement:
- Cases ending in acquittal (a “not guilty”) verdict at trial.
- Cases ending in dismissal.
- Arrests that did not lead to criminal charges, except for minor traffic offenses.
- Cases where the defendant’s conviction was reversed on appeal or on post-conviction, except for minor traffic offenses.
- Cases resulting in successful completion of court supervision (a type of sentence available in misdemeanor cases where a defendant is placed on probation but a conviction does not enter if he or she successfully completes probation).
- Cases resulting in successful competition of a “qualified probation,” which is similar to court supervision for certain felonies, as opposed to misdemeanors.
Cases resulting in acquittal, dismissal, no charges, or reversal on appeal can be expunged immediately. However, there are waiting periods and additional requirements (such as drug testing) for cases resulting in court supervision or qualified probation. Complete our interactive expungement guide to determine whether your charge or conviction qualifies for expungement.
So as long as my case did not result in conviction, I can expunge it right?
Unfortunately, no. Complete our interactive expungement guide to determine whether your charge or conviction qualifies for expungement. If your charge or conviction cannot be expunged under the Criminal Identification Act, it can still be expunged through the executive clemency process. Please see our executive clemency page for further details.
What is sealing?
Sealing is similar to expungement in that it prevents most people and entities from knowing that you were charged with, or convicted of, a criminal offense. The major difference is that courts and law enforcement will still have access to sealed offense records. The criminal records are not permanently destroyed like they are with expungement. The process of sealing a conviction is nearly identical to the expungement process, but many more offenses—including those resulting in conviction—are eligible for sealing. Complete our interactive expungement guide to determine whether your charge or conviction qualifies for sealing.
What if my conviction is not eligible for expungement or sealing?
If you conviction is not eligible for expungement or sealing and the time has passed for you to challenge your conviction on appeal or through a post-conviction petition, you can still have the conviction expunged through the executive clemency process. See our executive clemency page for more information on this process.
Why should I hire an attorney to file my expungement petition?
On its face, the expungement process looks easy. Forms are available online and in nearly every clerk’s office across the state. In theory, all you need to do is show up to a courthouse, fill out a form, and your conviction vanishes from your record. However, it is never that easy.
Information is used for informational purposes only and not legal advice.