This post is the first of three blog posts explaining the basics of criminal record expungement in Illinois. Many of my clients come to me with misconceptions about what expungement can do and how to go about it, and it is my hope that these blog posts clear up some of those misconceptions.
This post covers whether you even qualify to have your record expunged. Part two will cover the process for obtaining an expungement. Part three will attempt to explain what expungement does (and does not do) for your day-to-day life. Links to those other two posts will be added to the bottom of this post when the articles are published, so stay tuned.
What law governs the expungement process?
In Illinois, the primary source of law guiding the expungement process is the Criminal Identification Act , which is codified at 20 ILCS 2630/0.01, et seq. The Criminal Identification Act is dense, but if you are interested in expunging your record you should try to read it.
Do you qualify for expungement?
A number of things prevent you from having your record expunged. Generally, the following issues come up:
- Current pending criminal charges. You need to wait until your cases is resolved and reaches a final disposition (meaning you are no longer on parole, probation or court supervision) before you can qualify for expungement.
- Prior conviction of a criminal offense (or a municipal ordinance violation in the nature of a criminal offense) is a bar to expungement. 20 ILCS 2630/5.2(b). If any of your prior court cases involved probation (other than limited first-offender drug probation programs), conditional discharge, a fine for anything other an a petty traffic ticket, time served, jail or prison, or a finding of guilty by a judge or jury (without having received supervision), then you cannot have your record expunged.
If you have no prior convictions but you received supervision for a charge, there still may be a waiting period:
If you received a disposition of supervision for any past charge, you must wait five (5) years after the successful completion of your supervision if your charge was for:
- Domestic battery
- Criminal Sexual Abuse
- Retail Theft
- Operating an Uninsured Motor Vehicle
- Display of a False Insurance Card
- Scrap Processors to Keep Records
If you received supervision for any other criminal charge (and remember that most traffic offenses are petty offenses, not criminal offenses), then you must wait two years after completion of your supervision.
If there was no finding of guilt, you can seek to have your record expunged immeditately. If you were released without charges, or if you were charged and that case resulted in a disposition of not guilty, finding of no probable cause, or a disposition of nolle prosequi (commonly referred to having the charges “Nol Prossed” or “NP’ed”), then you can file your expungement petition immediately.
Next steps if you qualify to have your record expunged.
Hopefully you are still with us and are eligible for expungement. Next week in Part 2 of this series, I will explain what you have to do to have your record expunged and why it is a good idea to retain an attorney.