What Can I Do To Clean Up My Criminal Record?

These days, you can’t get passed most applications for all sorts of things without some kind of background check.  If you have a criminal record of any kind, this could prevent you from renting an apartment, getting a job, or qualifying for some services.  A criminal history report will include both arrests and convictions from the age of 17.  Any blight on your record could show up on a background check without giving you the chance to explain yourself; it automatically marks you as a criminal even if the charges were dismissed.  So what can you do?  There are three options a qualified Illinois criminal defense attorney can help you with: Expunging, Sealing, or Executive Clemency.

Expunging Your Record

Under Illinois law, only someone who has never been convicted of a crime or municipal ordinance violation can have his or her record expunged.  To get something expunged means to remove certain offenses from your record as long as there was no conviction.  If you qualify for expungement, a criminal record can only be access by a court order and will no longer come up on a background check.


Sealing, on the other hand, shields your record of criminal misdemeanors or municipal ordinance violations from the general public and most employers but remains accessible to law enforcement.  To qualify to have your record sealed, you must be an adult (or prosecuted as one) and have been acquitted, released without conviction, reversed the conviction, or have waited the required length of time after some misdemeanor convictions.  Certain crimes, like most felonies, cannot be sealed.  However, Class 4 felonies for drug possession and prostitution can be sealed.

Executive Clemency

If you don’t qualify for expungement or sealing your record, there is the last option of getting a pardon from the Governor, called executive clemency.  There is no specific time you have to wait in order to seek this remedy, but showing a crime free history of at least five years is recommended to strengthen your argument for why you deserve a clean slate.  Filing the petition to obtain a pardon doesn’t automatically erase your record.  If you get a pardon, the next step would be to go back to square one and try to have the record expunged.  This last option is important because it could restore certain rights you lost as a convicted felon, like voting.  Gun rights, though, have to be restored through a separate process managed by the Illinois State Police.

It’s hard enough to get ahead these days without a bad rap sheet following you around.  Give yourself a break and use the law to your advantage.  If you or someone you know could benefit from one of the options above, be sure to contact our Chicago expungement lawyers to help you through this process.  It could mean the difference between a safe place to live and a better paying job and even getting your most fundamental rights back like voting for president and owning a firearm.

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