Unfortunately, many people in their lifetime get charged with a criminal offense. Fortunately, many of these people are charged with minor criminal offenses, or even municipal ordinance violations, and have never committed a crime before and never will again. Fortunately, most prosecutors, assistant state’s attorneys, and most judges are sympathetic to these defendants and agree to have the matter disposed of in a way that would not become a permanent mark on their record.
First time drug offenders are often offered “drug school” and first time shoplifters are often offered a theft deterrent school. Once the defendant successfully graduates the case is dismissed and the defendant can have the arrest and case expunged. Expunged means that the records are physically destroyed.
People charged with shoplifting, battery, and assault are often, if found guilty, sentenced to court supervision. Court supervision is when the defendant pleads guilty but the judge does not enter judgment on the finding of guilt. Therefore, there is no conviction. After the period of court supervision has expired, the case is dismissed and the defendant may file a petition to have the case and arrest sealed after a set waiting period, which depends on the type of charge. The waiting period is either two or five years.
Lastly, even people charged and convicted of certain drug offenses can have their conviction sealed, and even people convicted can file for a petition for clemency from the governor.
Getting an arrest, if you were not charged, or a dismissed case expunged is relatively easy. Cook County has expungement forms and even a free “how to guides” which you can get from the court clerk, or on the web. Simply fill out the Petition to expunge, the notice, order, and make several copies, at least five. Then file your petition with the clerk of the court. After you file your petition, notice and order, you will have to mail copies to the state’s attorney, the Illinois State Police, the arresting police department, and the chief legal officer for the arresting police department. The chief legal officer is usually the corporation counsel for the municipality.
The fee for filing the petition is $60. Once the documents are filed the state’s attorney, police, and city, have thirty-days to object, or your petition should be granted.
After the petition is granted, you will get a certified copy from the clerk of the court. Do not lose it. It is your only copy and since the case has been expunged, the records have been destroyed and you cannot get additional copies.
In Cook County, you will have to make a copy of the order expunging your arrest and mail it to the Illinois State Police with another $60 to have them remove your arrest from their database. The arresting police department should also send you back the original arrest reports, finger print card, and booking photo, or at a minimum send you a letter telling you that your records have been destroyed.