Just a few short years ago, a felony conviction in Illinois meant a lifelong sentence. By that, I mean that although the defendant had completed his sentence, his/her criminal record was a matter of public record that everyone could see forever. For a convicted felon, regardless of how many years had passed, getting a job, renting an apartment, coaching, getting financial aid, or getting into a certain school was monumental, if not an impossible task. Felons were delegated to working low paying jobs which not only affected themselves but also their families. Throughout my 25 years of practicing criminal law, I made a point that the prosecutor or judge understood that the penalty on the defendant also indirectly affected innocent family members – such as the defendant’s minor children. Some prosecutors and judges care about the wider societal implications, but most really don’t. The devastation caused by a system that churns felons day in and day out is immeasurable – especially in minority neighborhoods. When rules require that the cost of incarceration should be taken into account in sentencing, they are almost universally ignored by the courts. I am amazed by how little regard the system has for the taxpayer money. Society changes and law evolves, but our criminal justice remains stubbornly archaic.
Fortunately, progressive voices have been heard by the Illinois State legislature and comprehensive reform has come to sealing felony criminal cases. When a record is sealed, it means that it is 1) hidden from public view; and 2) if a felon is asked if he has been convicted of a felony, he can legally answer ‘No.’ Hidden from public view does not mean that the record is destroyed. The arresting agency, the State Police, the States Attorney, and FBI retain the criminal record. The good thing is that employers, landlords, schools, and the public will not be able to see the record – it will not come up on a background check.
Almost all felonies in Illinois are sealable. That’s right – now people who made a mistake in the past are no longer burdened for the rest of their life. Filing a Petition to Seal is not automatic. In almost all cases, you are required to appear before the Chief Judge and present your case as to 1) why you’re worthy of getting your record sealed, and 2) that the public right to know about your record is less than your need to seal it. After 25 years of practicing criminal law, I can tell you with confidence that preparation is the key to success in sealing or expunging cases. At the expungement or sealing hearing, you must be ready to present yourself in the best possible manner.
In a recent case, I was able to seal a client’s record for Voluntary Manslaughter. Over thirty years ago, my client had killed his wife. After serving his sentence, he changed his life and did well. It was a highly emotional hearing that lasted for a couple of hours. The judge agreed with us and sealed the record. My client, humbly, with gratitude and remorse, will be able to live the remainder of his life without the shame and weight of a decision that happened a lifetime ago.
If you need to have your record sealed or expunged, call us at 312-229-5500 for a free consultation. We service Chicago, Cook County, Lake County, DuPage County, Kane County, Will County, and McHenry County. I’m so confident that we can seal or expunge your record that we offer a money-back guarantee.
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