It is extremely difficult for people who have been convicted of crimes to get their lives back on track. Long after you serve your criminal sentence, the record of your conviction can continue to haunt you. People with criminal records run into too many closed doors: housing, jobs, loans, child custody and visitation.
If a record of a past arrest or conviction is preventing you from moving forward in life, there may be options to clean up your record.
- Sealing a record: In some cases, it is possible to seal a record to prevent the public, including employers, from finding it. Some old convictions and juvenile crime records may be sealed. There are a number of strict requirements that apply.
- Expungement: These are most often used to erase arrest records. Expungements are typically possible for misdemeanor-level arrests, involving theft offenses, drug possession, prostitution or solicitation, disorderly conduct and other crimes. If you're currently facing a misdemeanor charge, your lawyer may ask for expungement now so you're record can be cleared sooner.
- Pardon: These actually clear convictions from records, but it is no easy task to obtain a pardon. You will have to petition the governor. To learn whether a pardon may be possible, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has a solid track record of securing pardons.
- Certificate of Innocence: If you have been wrongfully convicted of a crime in Illinois, you may be eligible for a Certificate of Innocence. This is a form of civil relief that is necessary in order for the state to compensate you for the wrongful conviction. This is a very complex process and you would benefit from the guidance of a highly skilled criminal law attorney.
You should not have to pay for your mistakes forever. And, certainly, if you were wrongfully accused or even wrongfully convicted of a crime, you need to clear your name. Illinois law offers several opportunities for people to move on without criminal records holding them back, but it isn't easy to take advantage of these. Take your first step forward today - make an appointment to talk to a reputable lawyer about your options.