Sealing 101: The Basics of Sealing a Criminal Record in Illinois

Criminal records are created in several different ways. The State’s Attorney can file a complaint or obtain an indictment through a grand jury, and a warrant will be issued for your arrest. You can receive a ticket, show up to court, and be charged with an offense. You can also be arrested. A criminal record is created in each of these scenarios. Regardless of the outcome, once a criminal record is created, you must proactively petition for its removal.

When a record is sealed in Illinois, the record is no longer visible by most employers or other members of the public. However, employers who are legally required to conduct fingerprint background checks can view sealed felony convictions, but they cannot see sealed misdemeanor convictions or sealed cases not resulting in convictions. Sealed records may be seen by law enforcement agencies. 

To determine if a record can be sealed, the Law Offices of Hannah Garst will look at whether your case resulted in a conviction or non-conviction. Examples of convictions include prison or jail time, boot camp, probation, conditional discharge, time considered served or fines. Non-convictions may be usually be expunged, but convictions are limited to sealing. A limited number of misdemeanor and felony convictions remain ineligible: sex offenses, domestic batteries, violations of orders of protection, DUI, reckless driving (unless you were under the age of 25), and animal offenses. All other felonies, regardless of their class, are now eligible to be sealed.

After determining eligibility, the next question is whether the petition can be timely filed. If your case was dismissed (Nolle Prosequi, SOL, Non-suit, FNPC, FNG, or RWOC), you are eligible to file a petition immediately; there is no waiting period. If your case resulted in a conviction, the case may be sealed three years after the completion of your last sentence. The last sentence includes all cases, and the waiting period begins when your entire sentence is completed, including probation. There is one exception to the waiting period. If you earned a high school diploma, associate’s or bachelor’s degree, career certificate, vocational technical certificate, or GED while serving any part of your last sentence, you are eligible to seal your offense immediately. 

If you meet the criteria for sealing, the Law Offices of Hannah Garst, P.C., will prepare a petition to be filed in the county where the record was created. Sealing is discretionary and never automatic. Once the petition is filed, the State’s Attorney, the Village Prosecutor, and the Illinois State Police have 60 days to object to the petition. In many counties, if no objection is filed, the petition is granted. Some counties require a hearing regardless of any objection. If a party objects or a hearing is required, the Law Offices of Hannah Garst, P.C. will present your petition to the court along with evidence that supports your sealing. We will guide you through the sealing process and ensure that you receive the best possible representation by an experienced attorney. Call the Law Offices of Hannah Garst, P.C., for a free consultation to determine your eligibility.