Below is information on how long a conviction stays on a criminal record in Illinois. To see if you are eligible for one of our criminal record clearing services, take our FREE Eligibility Check.
It is a common misconception that a person's criminal history will fall off of his or her record after a certain number of years. While this may be true for a driving record (accidents and moving violations eventually fall off of a person's record when enough time has passed), this is untrue for a criminal record. In Illinois, criminal convictions will stay on your record forever.
Some convictions and arrests that did not lead to conviction are eligible to be sealed or expunged, which will remove the conviction from a person's public criminal history. Other convictions are ineligible for either procedure and will be a permanent fixture on a person's criminal history. An example of such a conviction is a driving under the influence charge, which is ineligible to be expunged or sealed. If a conviction is sealed or expunged it will no longer appear on your record, except in some special circumstances.
The first step in discovering whether or not a conviction or an arrest that did not lead to a conviction is going to be permanently displayed on a person's criminal record is to determine whether or not the conviction is eligible to be sealed or expunged. If it is not, then it will be displayed permanently on a person's criminal record. If the conviction or arrest that did not lead to conviction is eligible then the second step is to have the conviction sealed or expunged.
Once a person's conviction is sealed or expunged it is no longer viewable by the general public and is no longer displayed on a criminal history report. There are, however, several circumstances when the convictions can still be viewed. Those circumstances depend on which method is used.
When a conviction is sealed, the court file is sealed but not destroyed. This means that the records still exist. While the information is not viewable on a general criminal history that can be accessed by the public, the sealed file can still be opened by way of a court order if the person is involved in civil litigation and the file is relevant to the issues at hand. The sealed conviction is also completely accessible to the Illinois Department of Corrections, the court, other law enforcement agencies, state attorneys, and prosecutors, and can be used in the course of performing their duties.
When a conviction is expunged, the file is completely destroyed. Once a conviction is expunged it will no longer appear on a person's criminal history. When a case is expunged, it will be treated as though the conviction never existed. The court and law enforcement agencies expunge the records and destroy them. Once a conviction is expunged it can only be used if the person is convicted in the future for the same or a similar offense. The conviction can then be taken into consideration when a judge is sentencing the person. Once a conviction is expunged it is no longer viewable on a person's criminal history.
It is also a common belief that an arrest that did not lead to a conviction cannot be seen on a criminal history report. This is untrue. An arrest that did not lead to a conviction will remain on an individual's criminal history permanently unless that individual seeks expungement or sealing of the arrest. Once an arrest is sealed, then the arrest will not be viewable to the public and can only be opened by court order. Once an arrest is expunged, the entire arrest record is destroyed, and is no longer viewable by the public.
The only way to guarantee that a conviction or an arrest that did not lead to a conviction is not going to appear on a criminal record is to have it sealed or expunged, if eligible. Otherwise, a person's criminal history is permanent. Both the sealing and expungement procedures will ensure that the public will not have access to the conviction information, and that individual can go about their life without the fear of a past mistake impacting that individual's future.
By Katharine Gemmill
Ms. Katharine Gemmill works with supervising attorneys for all cases in the RecordGone.com division, and she assists with criminal defense cases. Ms. Gemmill graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a Bachelor's Degree in English. She earned her Paralegal Certificate from University of California, Los Angeles in 2011.