What are expungement, record sealing and clemency?

On Behalf of | Apr 9, 2024 | Expungement |

Criminal records can have a major impact on a person’s life. For some people, they affect their ability to have a meaningful career, go to school or find suitable housing. There are also social and other collateral consequences to consider.

In these cases, clearing a record may be beneficial. In Illinois, there are specific avenues individuals can pursue to achieve this aim to differing degrees. These avenues include expungement, record sealing and executive clemency. While they all serve a similar purpose, they’re vastly different.

Expunging criminal records

Expungement offers the most comprehensive form of clearing your record, effectively erasing arrests, court supervisions and some probation cases as if they never occurred. This process involves filing a Request to Expunge and/or Seal Criminal Records with the court, which will then have to be approved by a judge.

Expungement removes arrests and supervisions from the record across all agencies, including the State Police and the arresting agency. This makes it an ideal option for those eligible. Not all convictions can be expunged because they’re restricted to specific circumstances or offenses.

Sealing criminal records

Sealing is less comprehensive than expungement but still offers significant privacy protections. While it doesn’t erase a criminal record, it hides it from the general public, including potential employers, friends and family. Sealed records remain visible to law enforcement agencies and some employers, particularly those required by law to conduct background checks.

Executive clemency for criminal records

Executive clemency remains an option for those who don’t qualify for expungement or sealing. This involves applying for a pardon from the governor, which can forgive an individual for criminal convictions.

While a pardon doesn’t automatically erase or hide a conviction, receiving one that authorizes expungement allows the person to apply then for the record to be expunged. This process is particularly relevant for individuals seeking relief for convictions that can’t be expunged or sealed through the standard legal channels.

Every aspect of the criminal justice system can be complex for a defendant. Having a legal representative on their side can help these individuals as they work through the entire process from arrest through any petitions to clear their record.