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Separating Fact from Fiction: Ten Things You Should Know
About Having a Criminal Record (Part One)

The truth about having a criminal record is often misunderstood.  Whether the fault of arm chair legal “experts” or urban legend, there is a great deal of information out there that is simply not true. The following is a list of the some of the most commonly-held falsehoods:      

 1.    A criminal conviction record cannot be expunged in Illinois.  A criminal conviction, depending on what it is, may be sealed.

  • Most people are familiar with the word “expungement” but often do not realize that only individuals who have never been convicted of a crime are eligible to expunge their criminal record.

2.    Convicted felons in Illinois lose the right to vote only while they are in prison.

  • Whether you can vote as a convicted felon will vary from state to state.

3.    Just because you did not go to prison doesn’t mean your criminal offense was amended from a felony to a misdemeanor.

  • If you have no prior (or a limited) criminal history you can be sentenced to probation or conditional discharge for a felony offense.  

4.    Only nonviolent misdemeanors and a few felony offenses are eligible to seal.

  • The law pertaining to what convictions are sealable in Illinois is somewhat confusing.  Because of the bias against crimes of violence, even convictions for simple battery or assault are not sealable yet certain nonviolent felony offenses can be sealed.  Starting January 1, 2014, the list of sealable felony offenses will expand to include retail theft, theft, deceptive practices, forgery, possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, and possession of burglary tools.

5.   Convictions for reckless driving or driving under the influence of alcohol/ drugs (DUI) cannot be sealed.

  • At one point in time it used to be possible to seal a DUI or reckless driving conviction in Illinois.Not anymore.  Not only does the law prohibit you from sealing these offenses, even if you receive “supervision” for a DUI or reckless driving – technically not a conviction – you cannot expunge this record either.   

The remaining misconceptions will be published in part two of this blog. Stay tuned.

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