Individuals Seeking Expungement in Illinois Face Roadblocks
In Illinois, there is a legal process that allows individuals that have been accused/convicted of certain crimes to have their records formally sealed or expunged from their criminal record, depending on the type of charge, the class or level of the charge, and the ultimate outcome. However, as detailed by a retired suburban police chief in a recent editorial, even a formal order from a judge ordering the record of the arrest to be expunged, records destroyed, or sealed by law enforcement, will not necessarily accomplish the same; individuals can run into problems with law enforcement complying with these orders which can render the initial goal mute. Often the local law enforcement will comply with the order locally, but will not formally contact the F.B.I. which collects criminal records as part of a national database. At other times the F.B.I. will only partially honor the request from local agencies to expunge certain records if it acts at all. Although individuals are always free to file the necessary paperwork to expunge/seal their records on their own if they believe they can do so appropriately, in his editorial the retired suburban police chief advises that individuals should hire an experienced attorney to help with expungement and sealing requests and maximize your chances of success and compliance.
Over 800,000 Individuals Have Had Criminal Records Cleared Since Legalization
Since the legalization of recreational marijuana in Illinois, over 800,000 individuals have had their arrests and convictions for certain marijuana offenses expunged over the last three years. Although this is encouraging, many more individuals currently qualify for expungement yet still have a criminal record. While some expungements are set to be handled automatically by the Illinois State Police over the next three years, one of the drafters of the legislation which legalized marijuana and provided a path for expungement of marijuana, State Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth, stressed the need for individuals to have access to attorneys who can assist individuals the new regulations were designed to assist. Individuals with a drug conviction that should have been expunged can still be denied certain housing, student aid, or suffer employment discrimination even though they qualify under the law to have their convictions eliminated from their criminal record. In addition to access, the 102 counties across Illinois lack a centralized court system that presents unique challenges for individuals to navigate on their own without the assistance of an attorney. Although some organizations and politicians are working to fix these issues, for many with criminal records that ought to be expunged, the help may come too late, or they may deal with unnecessarily maintaining a criminal record when they can seek expungement.