Sep 28

When law enforcement makes an arrest or files a criminal charge in Illinois, there is a corresponding entry on the alleged offender’s criminal record. This criminal record provides overarching details of all criminal activity, including but not limited to arrests, charges and convictions. The presence of a criminal record can have a negative impact on a person’s ability to obtain gainful employment or certain benefits.

To help alleviate this burden, Illinois features robust laws concerning the expungement or sealing of criminal records. Eligible individuals can apply for expungement, which essentially means erasing the criminal record. Individuals ineligible for expungement can apply for sealing, which basically means hiding the criminal record. There is usually a three-step process to apply for expungement or sealing of a criminal record in Illinois.  

Step 1: Obtain Copies of Criminal Records

Any person seeking to expunge or seal must first obtain copies of their criminal records. Without the record of their criminal activity, it is not possible to determine eligibility for expungement or sealing.

There are generally three types of criminal records in Illinois:

  • Court Dispositions: Maintained by the Circuit Clerk, court dispositions show the final judgment or outcome of any court cases in Illinois;
  • Statewide Criminal History Transcripts: Maintained by the Illinois State Police, these transcripts show all arrests and convictions that occurred in Illinois; and
  • Record of Arrests and Prosecutions (RAP) Sheets: Maintained by the Chicago Police Department, RAP sheets show the that occurred in Chicago.

Step 2: Determine Eligibility for Expungement or Sealing

After obtaining copies of their criminal records, one must next determine eligibility for expungement or sealing. There are several key differences between both of these legal processes.

Criminal record expungement is normally reserved for four different situations in Illinois:

  • Arrests: Expungement is available for arrests that did not lead to a conviction;
  • Convictions: Expungement is available for reversed, vacated or pardoned convictions;
  • Court Supervision: Expungement is available after two to five years after successful completion of court supervision; and
  • Qualified Probation: Expungement is available after two to five years after successful completion of qualified probation.

Even if someone is ineligible for expungement, they may qualify to have their criminal record sealed. Three years after completing their sentence, a convicted offender can apply for sealing of their felony or misdemeanor conviction(s). However, some convictions are ineligible for sealing, including certain driving, sexual, and animal offenses.

Step 3: Complete Expungement or Sealing Requirements

The final step in this process involves the completion of several forms, including the “Request to Expunge & Impound and/or Seal Criminal Records.” Throughout this process, alleged and convicted offenders must list many details concerning their criminal cases, including dates, arrest numbers, charges, and other relevant information. It is vital to complete these forms with precision and accuracy. Otherwise, the application for expungement or sealing may be denied.

Do You Need Legal Help?

No matter what the criminal offense, all charges are serious. A sound strategy and an aggressive defense are essential for a positive outcome. To protect your rights in such situations, it is highly advisable to retain legal counsel from an experienced criminal defense attorney.

The Prior Law Firm in Bloomington, Illinois, has proven experience in matters of criminal defense. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free consultation. You can reach The Prior Law Firm by phone at (309) 827-4300, email at or by completing an online form.

(image courtesy of Miguel A Ramirez)