How to Expunge my Public Records in Illinois

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Deleting a public record refers to blotting out every trace of the documentation of the event listed on the record so that it is no longer accessible to anyone. Many citizens' chances for education, employment, and housing are affected due to the events listed on their public records. For such persons, deleting public records which are holding them back matters. By deleting those records, they can go on to start new lives without being hampered by the mistakes of their previous lives. Although individuals may have strong reasons to want their public records deleted, it is not possible to do so in Illinois. The state makes no provisions for citizens to permanently delete all instances or traces of a public record; however, shielding those records from public view may be possible.

What is a Public Record in Illinois?

Per the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), public records are broadly defined as all records, reports, writings, memoranda, letters, forms, maps, papers, photograph, microfilms, cards, tapes, recordings, electronic data processing records, electronic communications, recorded information and all other documentary materials pertaining to the transaction of public business. The record may be in any physical form or of any characteristics, having been prepared by or for, or having been used or being used by, received by, in the possession of, or under the control of any public body. Any record relating to a government function in the possession of a third-party with whom the government has a contract is also considered a public record.

Enacted in 1989, the Illinois Freedom of Information Act provides the public with access to public records of government bodies at all levels in the state. Although requesters are not supposed to obtain a public record to further a commercial enterprise, violate individual privacy, or disrupt the day-to-day working of the public body, the FOIA permits public records to be inspected and copied for other general purposes. Illinois government makes records at various levels public in order to promote government transparency and public access to the affairs of government in the state.

Under specific circumstances, Illinois permits eligible persons to have public records removed from public access by filing a petition to the court. We also offer record-sealing service to Illinois citizens who wish to start new lives without the handicap of previous misdemeanors.

Does Illinois allow Expungement?

Yes. When a criminal record is expunged in Illinois, the Clerk's Office will remove the name of the subject from the docket system and impound the court file so that the record will not be accessible to the public. The arresting police department, Illinois State Police, and FBI will also be ordered to expunge their records.

The Illinois Criminal Identification Act (20 ILCS 2630/0.01, et seq.) governs the expungement of criminal records in the state. Individuals can have arrests or charges expunged from their criminal records if they have never been convicted of a criminal offense. That means that the arrest or charge must have resulted in:

  • Acquittal, dismissal, or a release without being charged
  • A vacated or reversed conviction
  • Completed court supervision
  • Completed qualified probation

Illinois defines qualified probation to include:

Note that a conviction of a criminal offense bar's expungement of not only the offense for which an individual was convicted but also any other arrests or charges on the person's record. Minor traffic offenses are not considered criminal offenses; hence, such offenses are not barriers to expungement. However, if an individual was convicted for a DUI, driving on a suspected or revoked license, reckless driving, or driving without a valid license, none of the person's charges and arrests will be eligible for expunction.

Persons who have never been convicted of a criminal offense can have records of arrests or charges expunged, except:

  • Completed supervision for sex offenses against minors
  • Completed supervision for DUI
  • Completed supervision for reckless driving (unless the offense occurred before the age of 25 and there are no reckless driving or DUI offenses on the offender's record)

While supervision for the offenses listed is not allowed to be expunged, court supervision for these offenses will not prevent expungement or other records, because the supervision does not count as a conviction. Juvenile convictions in Illinois do not prevent expungement.

There are specific waiting periods or statutes of limitation for expungement in Illinois. If there are no pending cases, an individual is eligible for expungement immediately after a finding of:

  • Not Guilty/Acquittal
  • Nolle Pros
  • No Probable Cause

If the case was dismissed for want of prosecution or SOL and a demand for a trial was made, the waiting period is 120 days after dismissal. However, if the individual did not demand a trial, the waiting period is 160 days.  For persons whose cases were dismissed following a period of court supervision, the waiting period is typically two years. The two-year waiting period is calculated from the date the individual successfully completed and was dismissed from court supervision and not the date the court entered the supervision order.

In specific instances, the waiting period is five years after the termination of court supervision. These instances include cases involving:

  • Domestic battery
  • Retail theft
  • Reckless driving
  • Driving without insurance
  • First-offense drug
  • Controlled substance
  • Steroid, alcohol, and drug dependency charges

How do I Expunge My Criminal Record in Illinois?

The following the steps to take to expunge a criminal record in Illinois:

  • Obtain copies of your criminal records. Criminal records contain the offenses an individual was arrested for, charges, and the outcome of the cases including all the sentences received. This information will be required to verify whether you are eligible for expunction or not and to fill out the expungement form. RAP sheets and criminal history transcripts can be obtained from the Illinois State Police while court dispositions are available at the various court locations in the state
  • Complete the relevant application forms.
  • Request to Expunge and Impound and/or Seal Criminal Records - Provides the court information needed to decide if you can have your criminal record expunged.
  • Additional Arrests or Cases for Expungement - Useful for persons who have more arrests or cases to expunge than will fit on the Request form.
  • Notice of Filing for Expungement and/or Sealing - Informs the arresting agency that you are asking the court to expunge your criminal record
  • Additional Notice of Filing for Expungement and/or Sealing - Useful for persons with more than two arresting agencies or if you were arrested in more than two different cities, towns, or villages.
  • File your form with the Circuit Clerk in the county where you were arrested or charged with the offense. For persons with arrests, charges, or convictions that occurred in more than one county, file separate requests for expungement in each county. In some counties, copies of your court dispositions may be required. Where they are required, attach the copies to the application form. Court documents are required to be filed electronically except for persons who qualify for exemption from e-filing.
  • Attend the court on the scheduled date. Go along with a photo ID, stamped copies of your form, Order to Expunge and Impound and/or Seal Criminal Records, Order Denying Request to Expunge and Impound and/or Seal Criminal Records, notes or documents detailing your employment and educational history, and other papers related to your request, such as evidence of completion of a treatment program, letter of recommendation, proof of education, or degrees.

If the judge approves your request, a copy of the Order will be sent to the police departments and prosecutors listed on the Notice of Filing for Expungement. Under the law, these agencies are allowed a maximum of 60 days from the time they receive a copy of the Order to expunge the records. When the records have been sealed, the Illinois State Police will send the petitioner a letter stating that the record has been expunged. Note that the records remain unexpunged until this letter has been received.

Will My Expungement Record Show up on a Background Check in Illinois?

No, your criminal record will not show up on a standard background check or on a non-FCRA compliant background check. Members of the public cannot see expunged records or find out what records have been expunged. However, the following persons can still access expunged records:

  • Police departments
  • Prosecutors
  • Correctional institutions
  • Military
  • Court services
  • Department of Child and Family Services

The following employers can also access expunged records:

  • Financial institutions
  • Fore departments
  • Private carrier companies
  • Schools
  • Park districts
  • Health care organizations
  • Childcare organizations
  • Any other employer required by law to conduct fingerprint background checks

Note that you can answer "no" to the question "have you ever been convicted" if your entire criminal record has been expunged during job applications in Illinois. The state does not permit private employers with 15 or more employees to ask if you have ever been convicted of a crime.

How to Seal a Record in Illinois

Persons convicted of certain offenses may be able to have the records sealed if expungement is not available. Contained in Section 5.2 (c)(2) of the Illinois Criminal Identification Act is an extensive list of the types of Class 3 and Class 4 felonies that can be sealed. These include:

  • Prostitution
  • Possession of cannabis
  • Possession of a controlled substance
  • Offenses under the Methamphetamine Precursor Control Act
  • Offenses under the Steroid Control Act
  • Theft and retail theft
  • Deceptive practices
  • Forgery
  • Possession of burglary tools
  • Possession with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance

The majority of misdemeanor offenses can be sealed, with the following exceptions:

  • Sexual offenses committed against a minor
  • DUI
  • Reckless driving (unless the charge occurred when the offender was under the age of 25)
  • Minor traffic offenses
  • Patronizing a prostitute
  • Public indecency
  • Criminal sexual abuse
  • Violation of an order of protection
  • Dog fighting
  • Domestic battery
  • Offenses that require registration under the Sex Offender Registration Act

The waiting period for sealing records in Illinois varies in relation to the offense committed. While some records can be sealed immediately, others require 2-year, 3-year, or 25-year waiting periods. The state also allows some records to be sealed after reaching certain education milestones, such as:

  • High school diploma
  • Associate's degree
  • Career certificate
  • Vocational or technical certification
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Passing the high school GED test

Usually, many people choose to seal records because expungement is unavailable. However, for some records, sealing has a shorter waiting period than expungement, therefore, some choose to seal their records rather than have them expunged at a later date.

The processes for expunging and sealing a record are nearly the same. The steps of a sealing process are listed below:

  • Obtain your criminal records (court disposition, RAP sheet, and Illinois State Police Statewide Criminal History) from the relevant authorities. Court dispositions can be obtained online from the public computer at the courthouses or online in jurisdictions that provide online access.
  • Fill out the following application forms:
  • Request to Expunge and Impound and/or Seal Criminal Records
  • Additional Arrests or Cases for Sealing (Useful if the petitioner has more arrests or cases to expunge than will fit on the Request form)
  • Notice of Filing for Expungement and/or Sealing
  • Additional Notice of Filing for Expungement and/or Sealing (Useful if the petitioner has more than two arresting agencies or if the petitioner was arrested in more than two different cities, towns, or villages)
  • File your form with the Circuit Clerk in the county where you were arrested or charged with the offense. In some counties, you may have to attach copies of your court dispositions. Note that court documents can only be filed electronically unless you qualify for an exemption from e-filing. If you have arrests, charges, or convictions that happened in more than one county, you must file separate requests for sealing in each county. A request should only include arrests, charges, and convictions that happened in one county. You will have to pay filing fees in each county where you file a request except where waivers apply. Waivers are available for persons who fall below federal poverty guidelines.
  • The circuit clerk will serve a notice of the petition to the State's Attorney or prosecutor who prosecuted the offense, the Department of State Police, the arresting agency, and the chief legal officer of the unit of local government that made the arrest.  Any of these agencies have the right to file an objection to the petition within 60 days of being served notice.
  • At the hearing, if no objections to the petition are filed, the judge will enter an order granting the petition.
  • The Illinois State Police will send you a letter stating that they have expunged or sealed your records. Until you receive this letter from the Illinois State Police, your records have not yet been expunged or sealed.

Who Can See My Sealed Record in Illinois?

The general public, landlords, and employers not required to conduct fingerprint-based background checks cannot see sealed convictions regardless of whether they are misdemeanors or felonies. For all felony and misdemeanor cases, the following can access sealed records:

  • Illinois State Police
  • Department of Corrections if convicted of another offense
  • Courts
  • Prosecutors carrying out their duties
  • State Attorneys

For felony cases only, certain employers required by law to conduct fingerprint checks through the Illinois State Police can see sealed criminal convictions. Misdemeanor sealed convictions cannot be accessed by any employer. Employers permitted to access sealed felony records include:

  • Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS)
  • Private and public carriers
  • Hospitals
  • Park districts
  • Financial institutions
  • Private organizations that provide children social and educational services
  • Some state and local government agencies.

How to Delete Bankruptcy Records in Illinois

Bankruptcy is a court proceeding that is governed by the federal law, Bankruptcy Code. The Code is set forth to provide persons or other entities in financial distress with relief from part or all of their debt. Bankruptcies can only be administered by a separate federal court division known as the United States Bankruptcy Court. There are no provisions for legally deleting bankruptcy records in Illinois except in instances where the record is untrue, misreported, or inaccurate.

According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a bankruptcy record can stay on an individual’s credit report for 7-10 years. After that period, it will be automatically removed, and future creditors will not be able to access the record. Bankruptcy records are open records and can be accessed even through non-FCRA compliant records check services.

What are Consumer Protection Laws in Illinois?

The State of Illinois through its consumer protection laws provides for the protection of Illinois consumers and businesses victimized by fraud, deception, and unfair business practices. Otherwise known as the Consumer Fraud Act, the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act gives consumers a remedy for wrongs committed against them in the marketplace. It addresses general problems such as false advertising, odometer tampering on used motor vehicles, and sales fraud. The Consumer Fraud Act also serves as a deterrent to businesses from engaging in deceptive practices. The Act prohibits the use of any false pretenses or promises, concealment, suppression, or omission of any fact that is material to a business transaction.

Individuals who believe they have a claim under the Consumer Fraud Act may contact an attorney to file a private cause of action or contact the Illinois Attorney General's office to report their claims. The Act provides for civil or criminal penalties, damages, reasonable attorney's fees, and costs under the right circumstances. To protect the elderly, the Act sets forth even stiffer penalties when a consumer over the age of 65 is involved.

Increased alarm over identity theft and prevalent high-profile media reports of data security breaches has impelled the Illinois General Assembly to enact legislation to protect persons whose personal information have been improperly disclosed. This legislation affects state and local government agencies and commercial entities that conduct business in the state. Pursuant to 815 ILCS 530/1 et seq., the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) requires these agencies and businesses to disclose any breach of a computer system that contains the unencrypted personal information of Illinois residents. PIPA defines personal information to mean the first name or initial and last name of an individual, in combination with one or more of the following:

  • A social security number
  • A driver’s license number or State Identification card number
  • A financial account number
  • A credit card or debit card number accompanied by applicable passwords or security codes

PIPA compels data collectors in Illinois to notify residents in the event of a system data breach. Notification is required to be made in the most expedient time possible and without unreasonable delay. Failure to comply with the Act constitutes an unlawful practice under Illinois’ Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. Anyone affected by such failures may pursue a civil action for the recovery of real and punitive damages.

Other consumer protection laws in Illinois include:

  • Illinois Homestead Laws
  • Illinois Antitrust Laws
  • Illinois Interest Rate Laws
  • Illinois Lemon Laws
  • Illinois Identity Theft Laws

How to Delete Lien Records in Illinois

A lien is a type of security interest placed over a property or an item to secure the payment of a debt or performance of some other obligation. A State of Illinois tax lien will remain on the record for 20 years or until it is paid off. Even after paying off a debt or correcting it, an individual's credit report may continue to show a lien if a lien release has not been recorded.

An unpaid judgment can become a lien on real estate in Illinois. A judgment lien allows a creditor to force a sale of property owned by the debtor. The lien remains in effect for seven years even if the creditor does not force a sale. Illinois allows a creditor to renew the lien twice, for a total of 21 years. Liens are a matter of public record in Illinois and they cannot be deleted from public records before the expiration of the statute of limitation or the offsetting of the associated debt.

To obtain a lien release in order to remove a lien record after paying a debt, contact:

Lien Unit

Illinois Department of Revenue

PO BOX 19035

Springfield, IL 62794-9035

Phone: (217) 785-5299

E-mail: REV.Lien@illinois.govYou can search lien tax lien records in Illinois through the Tax Lien Registry. The Illinois Tax Lien Registry was created per Public Act 100-22 as an online, statewide system for maintaining notices of tax liens filed or released that are enforced by the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR). The liens included in the database include liens filed by IDOR or the Department of Employment Security on the real property and personal property, tangible and intangible, of taxpayers, other people, or entities under the law for unpaid final liabilities.

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