Nov 8

When a person is arrested, charged, or convicted for a crime in Illinois — such as domestic violence or driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs — they can face imprisonment and hefty criminal fines. In addition, a single arrest, charge, or conviction creates a criminal record for the offender. These criminal records are publicly available and can have a negative effect on background checks for employment, housing, and more. 

Recognizing the potential consequences of criminal records, Illinois law allows certain individuals to expunge or seal their criminal records. The expungement or sealing process effectively hides a criminal record from background checks, enabling a person to move past a previous arrest, charge, or conviction. 

What is the Difference Between Expungement and Sealing?

Although expungement and sealing are closely related, there are key differences between these two processes. Furthermore, expungement and sealing are mutually exclusive. A former criminal is ineligible for either expungement or sealing, not both. 

Expungement refers to a complete eradication of arrests, charges, or sentences in a criminal record. After a successful expungement, the criminal record effectively disappears. From a record-keeping standpoint, expunged arrests, charges, or sentences never actually happened. 

Sealing refers to a partial concealment of arrests or charges in a criminal record. When a criminal record is sealed, it becomes invisible to the general public and most private entities. But law enforcement and other government agencies can still review sealed criminal records. 

When is Expungement Available for Criminal Records?

Under Illinois law, criminal record expungement is available in the following situations:

  • Arrests — Misdemeanor or felony arrests that did not result in a conviction are eligible for expungement;
  • Convictions — Reversed, vacated, or pardoned convictions are eligible for expungement;
  • Court Supervision — Sentences for court supervision are eligible for expungement, if at least two years have passed since completion of all requirements; or
  • Qualified Probation — Sentences for qualified probation are eligible for expungement, if at least two years have passed since completion of all requirements.

It is important to note that certain sentences for court supervision are only eligible for expungement after a five-year waiting period. This extended waiting period applies to court supervision sentences for:

  • Domestic Battery;
  • Criminal Sexual Abuse;
  • Driving an Uninsured Motor Vehicle;
  • Driving a Motor Vehicle with Suspended Registration;
  • Using a Fake ID; or
  • Failing to Maintain Scrap Processing Records.

When is Sealing Available for Criminal Records?

Even if a person fails to qualify for expungement, they may be eligible for criminal record sealing. Illinois law allows for sealing in the following situations:

  • Minor Traffic Offenses — Arrests for minor traffic offenses can be sealed if the person was released without official charges; 
  • First-Time Drug Offenders — Arrests or charges for certain first-time drug crimes can be sealed after a three-year waiting period; or
  • Criminal Convictions — Convictions for felony or misdemeanor offenses may be eligible for criminal record sealing. 

There is an important exception to the availability of criminal convictions for record sealing. A conviction for certain criminal offenses — such as dog fighting, stalking, or solicitation — are ineligible for record sealing. 

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.