Great news for individuals burdened by felony criminal records: the Illinois Criminal Identification Act (20 ILCS 2630/5.2 et seq.) has recently been amended by Public Act 098-0142 which adds multiple Class 3 and Class 4 offenses not previously eligible for relief by sealing to now be eligible for sealing through the court system! Prior to this change, only three (3) felonies (all Class 4) were eligible for relief through sealing: possession of a controlled substance (PCS), possession of cannabis (marijuana) and prostitution. Now, in its expanded form, the Illinois Criminal Identification Act allows for the following offenses to be eligible for sealing:
• Class 4 felony convictions for prostitution, possession of cannabis (marijuana), possession of a controlled substance, theft, retail theft, deceptive practices, forgery and possession of burglary tools; and
• Class 3 felony convictions for theft, retail theft, deceptive practices, forgery and possession with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance.
Moreover, the revised version of the Illinois Criminal Identification Act now provides concrete factors a court may consider in determining whether or not to grant an individual’s petition for either expungement or sealing; these factors include the strength of the evidence supporting the defendant/petitioner’s underlying conviction(s), the reason the State wishes to retain the individual’s conviction records, the petitioner’s age, entire criminal history and employment history at the time the petition to expunge or seal is filed, the length of time that has elapsed between the underlying conviction(s) and the filing of the petition to expunge or seal and consideration of specific adverse consequences a petitioner may be subjected to if his/her petition to expunge or seal is denied. While these same factors have been considered since at least as far back as 1998, pursuant People v. Wells (1st Dist. Il. App. Court, 1998), they are now importantly codified within the language of the statute itself.
All in all, the newly-revised Illinois Criminal Identification Act is now giving individuals with either/both Class 3 and Class 4 felonies an opportunity to put their past behind them to continue moving forward as productive members of society. For example, no longer does an individual with a conviction for Class 4 or Class 3 retail theft or theft need to petition our state governor for relief through a petition for executive clemency; instead, this individual may file a petition to seal in the original court where he/she was convicted, thus expediting his/her chance for relief and moreover, freeing up more time for the Governor to consider clemency petitions on more serious crimes. This new version of the Illinois Criminal Identification Act looks to be a win-win for both people looking to seal their criminal records and people needing to seek a pardon through Governor Pat Quinn.