Now that we have discussed the basics of expunging and sealing your criminal record, it’s time to answer some Frequently Asked Questions!
1. Q: Do you need to hire a lawyer to assist in filing a petition to expunge or seal your criminal record?
A: Due to the complex process, we recommend hiring a lawyer to assist in filing a petition to expunge or seal your criminal record. However, there are resources available for individuals who cannot afford an attorney or wish to petition to expunge or seal their own record. See the Criminal and Traffic Expungement and Sealing Procedural Guide and note page 2 which provides a list of dates, times, and locations for criminal record expungement and sealing assistance at various courthouses.
2. Q: Why should I file a petition to expunge or seal my criminal record?
A: There are many reasons why it is beneficial for individuals to expunge or seal their criminal record when possible. First, expunging or sealing your criminal record may help you get a job and will also protect the privileges and rights you are entitled to under the law. See the following two questions for examples of what an employer may and may not do under the law. Second, expunging or sealing your criminal record either (1) limits the public’s view of the record in all cases (expungement) or (2) only allows certain law enforcement organizations and individuals to see your record unless a court order was issued by a judge (seal). Third, if you don’t expunge or seal your criminal record, your arrest will appear on your record forever!
3. Q: Are employers allowed to ask you if you have had records expunged or sealed?
A: No. And you are not required to disclose this information on employment applications. See 20 ILCS 2630/12.
4. Q: Can an employer use the fact that you had a criminal record expunged or sealed as a reason to hire, fire, or affect the terms, conditions or privileges of your employment?
A: No. It is a civil rights violation under 20 ILCS 2630/12 for an employer to use the fact you have had a criminal record expunged or sealed as a reason to hire, fire, or affect your terms of employment.
5. Q: What is a RAP sheet and do you need one to file a petition to expunge or seal?
A: A rap sheet, formally known as a Criminal History Record Information, provides a list of your arrests and convictions in the State of Illinois. If you are filing your petition in Chicago a copy of your rap sheet is mandatory. If you are filing in one of the five suburban districts, a rap sheet is not required but is recommended.
6. Q: What is considered a conviction?
A: A conviction is a final judgment of guilt by the court. A conviction includes probation (with certain exceptions), conditional discharge, fine, time considered served, jail time, and a finding of guilty by a judge or jury.
7. Q: What is not considered a conviction?
A: Supervision, nolle prosequi, stricken off with leave to reinstate (SOL), finding of no probable cause (FNPC), non-suit, dismissed, finding of not guilty (FNG), or successful completion of first-offender drug probation.
8. Q: Your case may be eligible for expungement but the time period has not passed yet, can you seal my record in the meantime?
A: Yes. You can seal your record and then when the time period passes you may petition to expunge your record.
9. Q: Are there other forms of relief if your petition to expunge or seal your criminal record is denied?
A: Yes. Other options include*:
• Petitions for Executive Clemency: If your petition has been denied, you can file a petition for executive clemency with the governor. A pardon allows a person to expunge a conviction that is otherwise ineligible.
• Health Care Waivers: Removes statutory barriers to working in health care facilities;
• Certificates of Good Conduct: A finding by the court that the offender has been rehabilitated. A Certificate of Good Conduct can be used to navigate around certain employment and licensing bars;
• Certificates of Eligibility for Sealing: A recommendation from the Illinois Prisoner Review Board to order the sealing of an offense that is otherwise ineligible to be sealed.
• Obtaining a PERC Card (Permanent Employee Registration Card): PERC cards allow individuals to apply for and achieve eligibility for security positions.
10. Q: What if you were charged as a juvenile?
A: See Section 5-915 of the Juvenile Court Act (705 ILCS 405/5-915). Also see the Guide to Expunge or Seal Your Illinois Juvenile Record prepared by the Office of the State Appellate Defender.
* This list is not exhaustive.
Here is a link to the Clerk of Cook County’s Do-It-Yourself Guide. The guide was also referenced in this post. While the Clerk’s guide offers an excellent step-by-step guide and includes the relevant forms, the process can still be intimidating and confusing. If you have any questions regarding expunging or sealing your criminal record as an adult or a juvenile, from reading your RAP sheet to filing a petition for executive clemency, give us a call at the Law Offices of Laura Morask for a free consultation.