Will My Criminal Arrest Automatically Disappear if I Avoid a Conviction? No.
Any time that a person is arrested on suspicion of criminal activity, a record of the arrest is created. That record remains a part of the person’s criminal history regardless of whether he or she is ever convicted. The arrest remains even if formal charges are never filed or are dismissed along the way. Having an arrest in your background can lead to uncomfortable questions and embarrassing conversations with potential employers, landlords, and school admissions officers.
The good news is that the state of Illinois makes it possible for individuals to get arrest records removed through a process known as expungement. The bad news is that many people do not realize the opportunity is even available, let alone what it entails. There are also a number of myths regarding expungement that continue to persist, making it more challenging for people to know what to believe.
Myth: An Arrest Will Be Automatically Expunged Without a Conviction
While it would certainly be nice if an arrest was removed from a person’s record when the charges are dropped or a not-guilty verdict is issued, this usually does not happen. Illinois law provides for automatic expungements for certain juvenile records, but if you were arrested as an adult, you will need to apply for the expungement process to clear your record.
Myth: Expungement Clears Convictions Too
Unfortunately, this one is also false. While other states may allow the expungement of certain arrests that resulted in a conviction, Illinois is not among them. It is possible to have a conviction record sealed—meaning that it will not be visible on most background checks—but a conviction cannot be completely wiped away without a pardon from the governor.
Myth: I Don’t Qualify Because of Other Convictions
It used to be that a person with a conviction on his or her record could not apply to have other arrests that did not result in convictions expunged. Illinois law, however, was amended last year to give more individuals the chance to clean up their records. Today, the offense in question is the primary deciding factor on whether a person is eligible for expungement, not unrelated charges that were resolved years ago.
Myth: Expungement Is Too Expensive
In most Illinois counties, there are fees associated with applying for expungement or record sealing. Recent legislation created a pilot program that allows expungement fees to be waived in Illinois counties with a population of at least 3 million people—which means only Cook County—but even if you live in another county, the price is likely worth paying. Clearing your record could make the difference in landing your next job or finding affordable housing, which could easily offset the costs involved.
Myth: You Should Do It Yourself
While there is no requirement for you to have an attorney when you are seeking an expungement or record sealing, the process is exhaustive and time-consuming. It also requires extremely careful attention to detail, as a single mistake could force you to start again. An experienced Will County expungement attorney can help ensure you get everything right the first time so that you can complete the process quickly and without unnecessary delays. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation and get the fresh start you deserve.