If you live in Illinois and are arrested or charged with a criminal offense, a criminal record automatically gets created in your name, even if you never actually receive a criminal conviction. Your criminal record then becomes available to the public, meaning anyone from prospective employers to prospective life partners can get their hands on it with relative ease - unless you do something about it.
If you wish to erase or conceal your Illinois criminal record, the first step involves filing a request with the court. You can attempt to utilize one of three different methods when you want to clear your criminal record. You can work to have it expunged or sealed, but if you are unable to do either, you may be able to pursue executive clemency.
If you are able to have your criminal record expunged, this may be your best-case scenario. Why? Expungement means that your crime, and if applicable, any court supervision you had, undergoes removal from your record. Therefore, if someone tries to look into your background, they will not find any details, because expungement essentially wipes away any traces of your crime, making it as if it never occurred in the first place.
If expungement fails, you may be able to have your criminal record sealed. While this means most members of the public will not be able to find details of your crime, law enforcement agencies still can. Additionally, if you have a felony conviction, potential employers will be able to see it even with a sealed record. However, they would not be able to see any misdemeanor criminal convictions, or arrest records that did not lead to criminal charges.
Executive clemency involves securing a pardon from the governor for your crime. It is important to note, however, that the pardon does not automatically expunge your crime. Rather, it can open the door so that you can apply for expungement.
Every situation is different, but if you find that your criminal past is interfering with your day-to-day life, you may have options.