Expungement: Adult Arrest Records

handcuffsIf you have been arrested in connection with a crime in Illinois you may be eligible to expunge your arrest record.

Prior to 2017, you were only eligible to expunge your arrest record if you had never been convicted of a crime in Illinois or anywhere else (in another state or under federal law).  In 2016, the Illinois General Assembly amended the law to allow individuals who have been convicted of a crime to now  expunge their arrest history.

The 2016 amendment also waives the filing fee but only for individuals who have cases from Cook County. The fee waiver will remain in effect for a year (1/1/17 to 21/31/17) as part of a fee waiver pilot program.

The expanded right to expunge only extends to the following arrest records: 1) no case was filed after the arrest (the charges were never referred to the state’s attorney’s office) or, 2) where charges were filed, the court dismissed the case. Conversely, the Cook County fee waiver does not apply when the disposition of the case resulted in: 1) a sentence of court supervision; or, 2) a deferred sentence, resulting in the eventual dismissal of all charges.

The only other way to waive court fees is to apply for a fee waiver, arguing financial hardship (i.e., unemployed, under employed, low wage earner). There is a state-wide fee waiver court form you can use to apply.

Please note that court filing fees vary from county to county. The only portion of the filing fee for a petition to expunge (or seal) that is the same regardless of where you live is the $60 fee paid to the Illinois State Police.

It is important to remember that the right to expunge your record is not guaranteed. It is always within a judge’s sole discretion to grant or deny a petition to expunge. Some courts will not grant a petition to expunge without a court hearing to determine whether your petition should be granted. In some counties, your court appearance may be mandatory, even if you are represented by an attorney.

When a judge orders a criminal record to be expunged, it is as if the arrest never took place. The information is removed from the Illinois State Police criminal history database. The FBI is also notified.  If you need assurance that the FBI has complied with the court order, you can request a copy of your criminal history from the FBI for a small fee.

In the event you receive court supervision or special probation, your right to expunge your record hinges on successfully completing the terms of your sentence. If, on the other hand, a judge terminates your supervision or special probation “unsatisfactorily,” because you failed to comply with the terms of your sentence (e.g., unpaid court fines and fees, testing positive on a drug screen, picking up a new case), the sentence is treated as a conviction, and you will no longer be able to expunge the record of that case.

Some offenses, such as driving under the influence (DUI) or reckless driving, do not qualify for expungement, even in the event you receive supervision and complete the terms of your sentence successfully. The only scenario under which these charges can be expunged is if the charges are dismissed.