Articles Posted in Expungement

Veterans CourtThe recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have seen a dramatic rise in the number of mental health and substance abuse issues involving military veterans returning from serving in those wars.  Some of these soldiers are returning home with mental health issues and are using drugs to deal with the mental health issues which such wars have caused.  Those issues have spilled into the criminal justice system when these military veterans are getting arrested for crimes caused by substance abuse and mental health issues arising out of their military service.  In an effort to address the specific needs of returning veterans, the Illinois Legislature passed legislation in 2009 establishing Veterans Courts in Illinois.  The 2009 legislation did not require that counties establish such courts.  Nevertheless, Cook County and Lake County did establish such courts. Veterans Courts are specific courts which are designed to steer military veterans out of the criminal punishment aspect of the court system and towards the treatment aspect of the court system.  Specific courts have been established at 26th and California, Skokie, Rolling Meadows, Maywood, Bridgeview and Markham. The Veterans Courts in Cook County have been very successful and have been used as a model by court systems throughout the United States to help them establish their own Veterans Courts.  The Illinois Legislature recently passed legislation requiring that each county in Illinois establish such a court by January 1, 2018.  In anticipation of this new law taking effect, counties throughout Illinois are beginning to make plans to establish these courts.  Kane County officials are aware of the new law and are beginning to make plans to start the process of establishing these courts.

In order for a veteran to be eligible for Veterans Court in Cook County, enrollment has to be agreed to by the Court, Prosecutor and the Defendant.  The crime that the veteran is charged with cannot be a crime of violence. The veteran will not be eligible unless they have demonstrated a willingness to undergo treatment in the program.  They will also be ineligible if they have been convicted of a crime of violence within the past 10 years or if they have been discharged from a similar program within the past 3 years.

Lake County’s Veterans Court is similar with minor changes to the eligibility requirements.  To be eligible for Veterans Court in Lake County the veteran must have been honorably discharged from the military, must have a service related disability or currently be in the military, must be charged with a felony or misdemeanor in which probation or supervision is available, and must be willing to participate in the program before and after they enter the program.  They prefer that the veteran be eligible for VA benefits but is not a requirement.  For any crime involving a crime against an individual, the victim must agree to allowing the veteran to enter such a program.

ExpungmentThe Illinois legislature has passed a bill that would remove expungment fees in Cook County for people who were never convicted.  This is one of the most promising and positive changes to the expungement process.  If you are arrested and your case is dismissed or you are found not guilty, even though you technically do not have a criminal record, a public record of the case exists and the only way to remove that public record is to petition the Court to expunge, or to remove the case from the public record.  The expungment process can take several months, and depending on the county the case was in, could cost you several hundred dollars.  House Bill 6328, which was passed in the last legislative session, would establish a pilot program in Cook County which would remove fees for cases resulting in “release without charging,” or an arrest which resulted in dismissal, acquittal or a conviction that was later overturned.  An earlier version of the bill would have applied to every County in the State but received resistance from the Illinois State Police and Court Clerks who objected to the loss in revenue from the expungment fees paid.  In a compromise measure the legislature established this pilot program which only applies to Cook County for now.  It is somewhat offensive that government should profit from fees that innocent people have to pay to clear records that should never have existed to begin with.  But in spite of the unfairness, this bill is a significant measure which will affect the lives of many people.  Of the 70,000 people who enter Cook County Jail every year, roughly 12,000 of them end up having their cases dropped or are found not guilty.  There’s no way to know how many more people have their cases dismissed, dropped or found not guilty who never entered Cook County Jail.  This is really important because even though all these people were not convicted, the charges remain a public record which could make it very difficult to get a job.  We frequently get calls from people seeking to expunge their backgrounds because they can’t get a job and consequently have no money to pay the fees needed to clear their record.  It’s a viscous circle which is just plain wrong and unjust.  Hopefully this bill will be seen as a giant step in fixing a giant injustice.

The bill is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

James Dimeas is an award winning Chicago criminal defense attorney and author with more than 23 years of experience aggressively helping his clients expunge their criminal records.  If you need to have your record expunged in Illinois, contact me in Chicago (312-229-5500), DuPage and Kane (630-504-2096) or Lake (847-696-6458) for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal options.

ScholarDrug and TASC probation is a special kind of probation because the law allows you to avoid a criminal conviction and eventually expunge your arrest record. It is one of the few ways to avoid going to jail and avoiding a permanent criminal conviction.

Under “regular” probation, a felony conviction stays on your record forever unless the Governor issues a pardon – not very common.  Understanding the differences between drug, TASC and regular probation is important because it can mean the difference between having a clean record or being permanently labeled a convicted felon.

A further distinction is also necessary between drug probation and TASC probation.  For drug probation, you have be charged with possessing illegal drugs.  For TASC probation, the charge does not have to be drug related, but rather, have to elect to be treated as a person with a drug problem.   For example, if you are charged with Residential Burglary, you would not be eligible for drug probation or regular probation, but may be eligible for TASC probation.