The Difference Between Expunging and Sealing Your Criminal Record

If you or someone you know has ever been arrested, even if there was no charge or the case was dismissed, a criminal record exists. Unfortunately, despite no conviction the arrest is not removed automatically from a person’s record. In fact, a person must take affirmative action to remove it. Potential employers, educational institutions, and even landlords commonly use background checks. Under state law, a person may qualify to remove an arrest by either sealing or expunging their record.

Sealing vs. Expunging

If someone’s record is sealed, the record is not destroyed but instead no longer accessible to the public, except with a court order. The Clerk of Court stores the court file and erases your name from the electronic court docket system. Prosecutors and law enforcement, however, may have access to this record.

Alternatively, when someone’s record is expunged the criminal record is either returned to the individual or destroyed. The Clerk of Court will also erase the person’s name from the court’s docket system and store the file. No one has access to this record.

Do I Qualify?

Expungement of a record is only available when a person’s entire criminal record qualifies. If there are multiple cases in a record, and one does not qualify, then none of the record can be expunged. Furthermore, expungement is only an option if the person has never been convicted. In other words, if the person has ever received probation, conditional discharge, time served or jail time the record cannot be expunged. If conviction was never issued, however, then the record may be able to be expunged. On the contrary, individual criminal records may be sealed independent of other cases that appear on the record.

Under Illinois law, certain cases are ineligible for expungement or sealing. One example is driving under the influence (DUI). Even if someone received supervision, he or she will not qualify for an expungement.

It is important to understand that specific timelines must be followed when petitioning the court for the expungement or sealing of a criminal record. For this reason, contacting a qualified criminal attorney expungement or sealing attorney is vital to understanding your options under the law. Contact the law office of Steven Goldman at (773) 484-3131 today for your free, initial case evaluation.

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