Why is expungement important?
If you are looking for a job, housing, or legal immigration status, it may be necessary to have a clean criminal history. Some criminal justice records can be removed from public searches by expungement or sealing. Under Illinois law, 20 ILCS 2630/5.2 some criminal cases are able to be expunged or sealed.
What does expungement mean?
Expungement means the physical destruction of the record of an arrest or charge, while to seal a case means that although the record still exists it is unavailable without a court order. Either an expungement or sealing of an arrest or charge removes it from a person’s criminal record. The case history becomes inaccessible to the public. Most often, defendants seek to have their criminal record sealed or expunged to increase their employment opportunities, to become eligible to obtain certain licenses, to protect a currently held position, and to protect their reputation from the negative impact of a criminal history. All persons seeking expungement must meet specific requirements and pay a mandatory fee to have their criminal history expunged. Not all criminal cases qualify for expungement.
The relevant Illinois law can be found here.
How can I get help with expungement?
The Cook County Public Defender’s Office does not assist in the expungement of records.
There are, however, multiple organizations that can assist individuals in attempting to expunge their court records. Please see the list below.
- For the Chicago Legal Clinic, click here
- For the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, click here (To reach the juvenile expungement help desk call this number: 312-433-5655)
- For the Pro Bono Attorney Program, click here.
- For Cabrini Green Legal Aid, click here.
- For the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, click here.
- The Circuit Court of Cook County, 5th Municipal District outlines the procedure by which records are expunged or sealed in Cook County.
- The State Appellate Defender also has some online resources available.