If you have been arrested, charged, or convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, these records can severely affect your future. You may have severe financial penalties associated with a conviction. However, even an arrest record can affect your ability to rent or own a home, get a credit card, or get a new job. People can have problems arise in their families and relationships because of an arrest or criminal charge that may follow them for years.

Dealing with the financial and emotional burden after an arrest or conviction can feel overwhelming. However, you may have the opportunity to have this sealed or expunged from your record. In this way, you do not have to continually face the consequences years after you have paid your debt.

Records Can Be Expunged or Sealed. What’s the Difference?

In Illinois, criminal records may qualify for expungement or sealing. Which strategy your criminal attorney may choose depends on the charge and whether you were convicted or the charges were dropped. In some cases, expungement is not possible for a felony conviction, but you may have grounds to have the record sealed. So, what’s the difference between an expungement or sealed record, and does it make a difference?

Expungement and sealing a record are two different legal processes that have two different end results. In both cases, your records are not visible to the public. When the records are expunged, the arrest, charge, or conviction is physically destroyed. Any mention of your name in the public criminal records is removed. It becomes as if the event never happened.

However, this is not “forgiveness” for committing a crime.  That is called a legal pardon. On the other hand, a legal pardon does not automatically include having the record expunged from the system. Only public officials can grant a pardon. To have a record expunged or sealed, a judge or court must order the process.

Sealed records are not destroyed but instead are kept confidential. The general public cannot usually see these records, but law enforcement will still have access. However, if your record is sealed, a judge or court can have the records unsealed in the future if you are arrested or charged with another crime.

People who have their records expunged from the system do not need to reveal an arrest, charge, or conviction, not even to potential employers or landlords. As you can see, having a criminal charge or conviction expunged from your record can significantly impact your future.

What Felonies Can Be Expunged in Illinois?

In Illinois, if you were arrested or charged with a felony, but not convicted, then your record may be eligible for expungement. However, to qualify for expungement, you must not have been convicted of the felony. If you were convicted, you might still qualify to have your record sealed. Some convictions require a two- or three-year waiting period after you have finished the sentence. For example, if you were sentenced to three years of probation, you may have to wait an additional two or three years, or five to six years total from the time you begin serving your sentence.

You may have your first felony conviction sealed but no other subsequent convictions. If you are convicted of another felony after having the first one sealed, the court can order the first felony unsealed. Many misdemeanors and some felony convictions qualify for sealing. Others, such as driving under the influence, domestic battery, and most sex crimes, do not qualify. If your conviction requires you to register under the Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth Registration Act, the Arsonist Registration Act, or the Sex Offender Registration Act, your record cannot be sealed unless and until you are removed from the registry.

How to Get Legal Help

There are rules and regulations that determine whether you are eligible to have your record expunged or sealed. These include the type of crime, whether you were arrested, charged, or convicted, and if you have had multiple arrests, charges, or convictions. The Office of the State Appellate Defender has partnered to help adults seeking information about sealing or expunging their records. However, the process can be complex, and there are avenues an experienced criminal defense attorney may know to help improve your potential for success that are not readily apparent.

The skilled legal team at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC are professional, dependable, and easy to talk to. They will answer your questions and give you a case evaluation during your free consultation. Call the team today at (312) 644-0444 to schedule an appointment and discover the peace that comes from working with award-winning attorneys who care about their clients.