Expunging a Criminal Record in Illinois

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Expunging a criminal record removes mention of the offense from your public record. Erasing this information from the public view can provide several benefits to defendants. Understanding the process of expungement can help criminal defendants understand options that may be available to them before or after a conviction.

Legal Definition

Illinois law defines expungement as the physical destruction of records, returning of the records or obliterating the defendantís name from any official index or public record.

Eligibility Criteria for Expungement

Individuals who have been convicted of certain crimes may be able to expunge their criminal records. Expungement is based on a number of factors, including the crime that the individual was charged with, the amount of time that has transpired since the final disposition was made on the case and the defendantís conduct between the timing of the final disposition and the expungement hearing.

No Conviction

Illinois permits the expungement of criminal records that did not result in a conviction. A variety of different outcomes can make a person eligible for expungement. For example, the charges may have been dismissed against the defendant. The final disposition may have been a conditional discharge or court supervision. A conviction only occurs when a pleading of guilty is made or there is a finding of guilty after a trial on the case. Additionally, a person may file for expungement if he or she was arrested but there were not charged failed against him or her. Another outcome may be that the defendant was found not guilty after a trial.

Clean Criminal Record

Another eligibility criterion for expungement in Illinois is that the defendant has a clean criminal record after the charges that he or she is trying to expunge. This requires showing that there are no current criminal charges against the defendant and that there have been no subsequent offenses since the charges in question.

Filing of a Petition

Expungement is not usually automatic in Illinois. Instead, the defendant must file a petition to request this form of relief. This can often be completed by consulting with and retaining legal counsel to complete this process for the defendant.

Notice of Expungement

The defendant is required to give notice to the prosecution and the state police of the intent to expunge the record. The police or the prosecution may decide to contest the expungement because there are pending criminal charges or some other justifiable reason about why the record should be open to the public. The charge may have been violent in nature, and the prosecution may wish the information to be open to the public as a matter of public concern.

Benefits of Expungement

There are a number of benefits that expungement offers, such as the following:

Employment Opportunities

Illinois law currently prevents employers from asking about a defendantís criminal history prior to being interviewed or hired. This prohibits employers who are not governmental employers from asking applicants if they have been convicted of a crime during the first step of the hiring process. However, employers are permitted to ask later in the hiring process. Having an expungement allows a person to honestly answer that they have not been convicted of a crime in Illinois. Having an expungement makes it more difficult for employers and background check companies from finding information about the crime that the defendant was charged with. It also allows applicants to avoid lying about something, which itself may lead to termination after the fact.

Housing Opportunities

Many rental applications in Illinois inquire about an applicantís criminal history. These questionnaires typically ask about convictions since there are additional laws about asking arrests, which are not always indicative of any wrong behavior. If a personís criminal history is expunged, he or she can honestly respond that he or she has not been convicted of a crime. This allows the person to have greater housing options than if he or she has a criminal history. There are also federal laws regarding what questions can be asked when applying for federally subsidized housing.


When records remain public, nosy neighbors, coworkers, romantic interests and others may be able to find information about the defendant through a simple search. Expungement allows a defendant to control his or her reputation and avoid having this negative information unearthed so easily.

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer for Assistance

If you have been charged with a crime that you would like expunged from your record, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer for assistance. He or she may be able to help you take steps to better secure your future.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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