Who can see sealed Illinois criminal records?

by John D. Ioakimidis, Esq,

If the crime you committed is eligible, you may be able to seal or expunge your criminal conviction. The difference under Illinois law between sealing and expunging is that expunged records are destroyed while sealed records are retained but are not available to the general public.  

The question that I’m often asked is, who will be able to see my record after it is sealed? It depends if (a) the case is a misdemeanor or felony, and (b) who wants to see your record. 

First and foremost, the general public, landlords, and employers not required by law to do finger-print based background checks can not see sealed convictions regardless if they are felonies or misdemeanors.

For all felony and misdemeanor cases, the following have access to the criminal record: 

  • Illinois State Police;
  • Department of Corrections if convicted of another offense;
  • Courts; 
  • Prosecutors carrying out with their duties; and 
  • State’s Attorneys. 

For felony cases only,  specific employers required by law to conduct finger-print checks through the Illinois State Police can see sealed criminal convictions. Misdemeanor sealed convictions are not accessible by any employer. Employers that can access your sealed felony record include:

  •  Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), private and public carriers, hospitals, firefighter, and police applicants, park districts, financial institutions, private organizations that provide children social and educational services, and some state agencies and local government.

Keep in mind that the Illinois state law must require a finger-print based check through the Illinois State Police for the employer to see your felony sealed conviction. Sealed convictions for misdemeanor cases are not accessible by any employer – although they are accessible by the State Police, Department of Corrections, prosecutors, and courts. If an employer is not required by Illinois law to conduct a finger-print check for employment, neither your felony nor misdemeanor sealed conviction will be accessible.

Can the employer ask me if my record was sealed or expunged?  

Under the Illinois Human Rights Act, employers may not ask if your record was sealed or expunged. If the employer asks about your past criminal history,  the employer must have  “specific language” on the form or application that states that you are not required to disclose expunged or sealed records.  The employer can inquire about your criminal history only after being offered employment or selected for an interview. For expunged or sealed records found on the web or provided by private background check companies, it is unlawful for an employer to consider expunged or sealed criminal records under the Illinois Human Rights Act. Although an employer may eventually have access to a sealed criminal record, not allowing the employer to inquire at the initial application stage gives the employe a chance to explain the situation later in the employment process. 

Although a sealed record is accessible to some degree, sealing a criminal record provides a massive opportunity for you to move ahead in life because, in most cases, your sealed criminal conviction will not come up in a background check. You will be able to rent an apartment and get a job without having your past hold your future hostage. If you need to expunge or seal your record, contact me for a free and confidential consultation.

John D. Ioakimidis is an award-winning attorney lawyer with over-25 years of experience expunging and sealing criminal cases. John Ioakimidis was granted the “Top 100 Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer” award by The National Trial Lawyers, ranked as “Superb” by AVVO, the highest classification possible for any lawyer in the United States; and was awarded “10 Best Attorney for Client Satisfaction” by The American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys. John Ioakimidis is licensed to practice law in all Illinois Courts and the United States Supreme Court. If you are looking to get your record sealed or expunged, give at a call at 312-229-5500.

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