The Difference Between Expungement and Sealing

Naperville criminal defense attorneys , expungement and sealing, criminal recordThe worst decision on the worst day of someone’s life should not define who he or she is nor define the opportunities he or she has for the rest of the individual's life. People with a criminal record or who have been arrested may have a past that unfairly obstructs their future. The stigma associated after a conviction, or simply being arrested for a crime, can prevent them from getting jobs, access to certain housing, or even admission into some schools.

Illinois has a process by which an individual can petition to have his or her records expunged or sealed. Knowing the difference between the two and which one you qualify for can be an important step to getting your life back on track.


Having your record expunged in Illinois means that the records of the case one is attempting to expunge are no longer stored or maintained by the government. It is a method in which, on paper and through governmental documentation, the case never happened nor are any files maintained. Historically, only qualifying misdemeanors have been able to be expunged; however, there are some Class 4 felonies that may also be expunged.

What Records May be Expunged?

The following records may be expunged:

  • Juvenile arrest records not resulting in a conviction;
  • Arrest records of those charged with a crime who had the charges vacated or reversed; and
  • Records of convictions where no prison sentence was ordered.

Record Sealing

Sealing is different than expungement in that even though one may have his or her records sealed, the records still exist. Sealing a record is a way to take your criminal past out of the public eye. It does not erase the incident or destroy the documents, it just ensures a member of the general public who is browsing public records will not simply stumble across your records. It is important to understand that individuals or agencies with proper clearances will still be able to access your criminal records.

Changes to Illinois Law

The law controlling the expungement or sealing of records in Illinois underwent a major change and took effect in January 2017. House Bill 5017 cut down on the amount of time a juvenile must wait in order to petition for expungement. House Bill 6328 allows many individuals who previously were not eligible for expungement to petition to have their criminal records expunged. It also made the process to get one’s record expunged less expensive. Cook County is the only county so far that has eliminated the fines associated with petitioning for expungement

Our skilled Naperville criminal defense attorneys have the experience necessary to effectively navigate the expungement process. Contact Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC today by calling 630-232-1780 to determine whether you may be eligible for expungement.