Having a criminal record can greatly affect a person’s life. You may have a minor mark on your record that has come back to haunt you various times, such as when applying for a job or applying to rent an apartment. You may believe that the mark on your record is unfair itself or is putting you at an unfair disadvantage when it comes to personal opportunities. Now, you may wonder if there is anything you can do about it.
In some cases, individuals may be able to have their record expunged or sealed in Illinois. However, stipulations do apply, and not everyone or every crime qualifies for expungement. As a result, you would be wise to have the right information about how it could apply to your specific case.
Are expungement and sealed records the same?
You may have heard some people referring to having a record expunged and a record sealed as if the terms were interchangeable. However, “expunged” and “sealed” do refer to two different processes that have differing outcomes for the individuals. For example, if you have your record sealed, the public does not have access to that information, including employers, creditors and others. With sealed records, however, parties associated with the criminal justice system could still access the information in those records.
Expungement is a more thorough process in that it essentially clears a particular mark on your criminal record. As a result, you would not need to tell employers, future landlords or other parties about the arrest or conviction, and it would not appear on a public records search. Expungement does not mean totally erasing the arrest or conviction. Certain government agencies may be able to access the information if it proves pertinent to a current legal proceeding in which you are involved.
How can you qualify for expungement?
Though expungement may seem like an ideal situation for you, it is important to keep in mind that many factors can play a role in whether a judge approves this type of legal action, including:
- The nature of the crime
- The amount of time that has passed since the incident
- The jurisdiction in which you seek the expungement
- Other details relating to your criminal history
Illinois does allow for expungement in certain cases, and more recently, state laws have gone into effect that allow for the expungement of low-level cannabis-related records. These changes give hope for individuals who have arrests or convictions for relatively minor offenses.