Please help! I need someone to explain the Illinois expungement, sealing and/or executive clemency process to my prospective employer…

As I’ve previously discussed in various blog entries, one of the primary reasons a person retains me to file a Petition to Expunge, Petition to Seal, or Petition for Executive Clemency with Authorization to Expunge is to obtain new or better employment. Obviously the client’s criminal background is presenting a significant hurdle to be overcome with regards to landing a job offer, securing an interview, or even keeping a present job. Also, a person’s criminal record can present problems to be dealt with in the housing arena. Once retained by a client, I am happy to explain how we intend to pursue relief from that client’s criminal record pursuant to the Illinois Criminal Identification Act to a prospective employer or landlord. Sometimes an explanation of the processes by which the client is able to clear his or her criminal record will be sufficient to allow an employer, landlord or other entity to remain patient with that client while he or she works with me to draft and file necessary type of petition to obtain relief from his or her criminal record. The text below represents a redacted version of one such letter written to a current client’s prospective employer. If a new or existing boss or landlord has asked you to provide similar explaining Illinois criminal records law please contact me to discuss the details of your situation and how I can draft something to hopefully buy YOU some time while your petition is pending before a court or, alternatively, the Illinois Governor.

“January 23, 2012
Mr. ——————


Dear Mr. ———-:

I have been retained by Mr. ——- to prepare a Petition for Executive Clemency with Authorization to Expunge one (1) conviction from a —– case in —– County, Illinois. My client has asked me to prepare a brief letter explaining the process by which he can “clear” his criminal record, which, as I understand, consists solely of this single indiscretion. Accordingly, please take the following paragraphs as explanation of what you and he can expect to happen next pursuant to Illinois law on the subject matter at issue.

Basically, the Illinois Criminal Identification Act (hereinafter “the Act”), specifically 20 ILCS 2630/5.2 et seq., sets forth the requirements an individual must meet in order to pursue either expungement or sealing of his or her criminal record in Illinois. In a nutshell, if a person has even a single conviction, as defined by the Act, on his or her record (either in Illinois or elsewhere) he or she is not eligible to have any portion of his or her record expunged. The Act defines “expungement” to mean either the physical destruction of the individual’s records or else the return of said records to the individual, so that such records are no longer available for any other person or entity to see. See 20 ILCS 2630/5.2(a)(1)(E). Moreover, the Act defines the term “conviction” to include not only a sentence of jail or prison time, which is not applicable in Mr. ———‘s situation, but also a sentence of probation or conditional discharge, or even payment of a fine. See 20 ILCS 2630/5.2(a)(1)(C). Because Mr. ———– was given a sentence of probation (which he ultimately satisfied), he is deemed to have a “conviction” on his record, thus rendering him ineligible for outright expungement. Mr. ———- is also not eligible to have this single conviction “sealed” by the Court, as pursuant to the Act, only three felony offenses are eligible for the remedy of sealing. See 20 ILCS 2630/5.2(a)(1)(K) for the definition of the term “seal”) and 20 ILCS 2630(c)(2)(F).

A person in Mr. ———‘s situation is not left without remedy under the Act, however. Pursuant to 20 ILCS 2630/5.2(e), an individual who has been granted a pardon which specifically authorizes expungement by the Illinois Governor to seek an expungement from the original sentencing court. Basically, a person with an otherwise non-expungeable conviction on his or her criminal record may file a Petition for Executive Clemency with Authorization to Expunge with our state’s Governor and, essentially, receive “permission” to file an expungement with the court that originally entered the conviction at issue. Of course executive clemency, or a pardon, is considered to be an “extraordinary” remedy and therefore it is not automatically granted. Instead, there are many factors which are considered by the Governor when deciding these types of petitions; some of the factors are the length and totality of the individual’s criminal record, the length of time that has passed since the last conviction, the circumstances surrounding the conviction(s) at issue, what the individual has been doing in the time that has passed since the conviction(s) at issue and ultimately, the reason(s) why the individual is seeking this extraordinary relief. My professional opinion is that Mr. ———– has a very good chance at obtaining a pardon allowing him to pursue expungement in the Circuit Court of —— County based upon the factors set forth above. Though it may seem duplicative, these same factors just discussed are also considered by the Presiding Judge of the Court considering the Petition to Expunge and I therefore believe Mr. ——– also has a very good chance at ultimately getting an expungement petition granted. Once a Petition to Expunge has been granted by the Presiding Judge the arresting agency, the Illinois State Police and the Circuit Court records are to be expunged within sixty days of service of the Order to Expunge. See 20 ILCS 2630/5.2(d)(9)(A) et seq. Ultimately, the expungement of an individual’s criminal record(s) means that the individual can legally answer, on an employment application or otherwise, that he or she has not been convicted of the criminal offense(s) at issue. A background check of the individual’s record should also not reflect any conviction of the expunged offense(s). In practical terms, it wipes the slate clean to allow the individual to move forward with his or her life and obtain better employment, housing, etc.

I hope this letter sufficiently explains the process of executive clemency (i.e., a pardon) and expungement within the State of Illinois. Should you have any follow up questions on the subject I would be happy to discuss them with you and can be reached at 847-922-8683.

Very truly yours,

Jorie K. Johnson Attorney at Law”

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