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2020 Changes to Illinois Criminal History Expungement

Expunge of criminal record. Expungement written on a document.

A criminal conviction can follow you for years after you have paid your fines or served your time. Potential employers and landlords can look up your criminal history, affecting where you can live or work, and certain convictions can affect your professional licensing or immigration status. Thankfully, depending on the type of conviction, you may be able to have your criminal history sealed or the records expunged a certain amount of time after you finish your sentence. Sealing records hides convictions from public view, while expungement effectively erases the conviction from your criminal history.

A new law went into effect in Illinois on January 1, 2020, that changes some of the time limits and other rules about getting criminal convictions expunged. Below we identify some of the key changes to Illinois’ expungement rules that just went into effect. Reach out to a compassionate and knowledgeable Chicago criminal defense attorney with any questions.

Marijuana and other drug crimes are eligible for expungement

Now that marijuana is legal, Illinois has opened a pathway to have prior marijuana arrests and convictions expunged. Offenders arrested for possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana will now have their arrests automatically expunged if:

● A year has passed since the date of the arrest;
● The violation did not involve dealing to minors who were under age 18 and at least three years younger than the defendant; and
● The arrest did not involve a violent crime.

Individuals convicted for possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana can seek expungement of their records under the same conditions (no violence, no dealing to minors). Many felons serving prison sentences for marijuana crimes may be eligible for immediate release.

Additionally, first-time offenders who have served two years of probation for possession of cocaine, heroin, ecstasy or other controlled substances may seek expungement of those convictions.

Waiting period for objections extended

To seek expungement, a former defendant must file a petition with the Circuit Court and serve notice on four governmental agencies: the law enforcement agency that made the arrest; the chief legal officer of that agency’s governing municipality; the Illinois State Police; and the county State’s Attorney.

The Court will wait a certain amount of time before issuing the expungement to hear objections from these government agencies. Effective January 1, 2020, that waiting period doubled from 30 days to 60 days.

Reckless driving no longer sealable

The new law removes reckless driving and aggravated reckless driving from the crimes eligible for expungement or sealing. Government officials and prosecutors were worried that repeat DUI offenders were avoiding the enhanced penalties for multiple DUI convictions by expunging prior DUI convictions that had been reduced to reckless driving in plea deals, erasing the evidence of prior DUIs. As a result, reckless driving convictions will now remain.


If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges in Illinois, protect your future and your family by seeking representation from experienced, effective, and passionate Chicagoland criminal defense lawyers. Contact the Carol Stream offices of Johnson, Westra, Broecker, Whittaker & Newitt at 630-665-9600.

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