Many people seeking to clear their criminal records through the Illinois expungement and/or sealing laws are quite surprised to learn that certain traffic law violations can affect the outcome of their situation dramatically. Not only do certain violations of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/ et seq.) result in a person becoming technically non-eligible for expungement and/or sealing relief, but even where the individual is still eligible for such relief, the waiting period that must expire prior to that individual seeking such a remedy is in many cases drastically increased. Essentially, this idea is an extension of the discussion from my previous blog entry titled “Expungement: an ‘all or nothing’ remedy”, but here, I would like to cite some specific examples dealing with traffic law violations.
As I previously posted in my blog entry titled “Illinois expungement and sealing laws: not as straightforward as many people think”, only a person who has never been convicted of a criminal offense in his or her adult life is eligible to petition the court for expungement relief. (See 20 ILCS 2630/5.2(b) et seq.) As discussed, the Illinois expungement and sealing statute is very specific, however, in defining the term “conviction” – generally speaking, a criminal case ending by way of conditional discharge, general probation, a prison sentence or a fine for a municipal ordinance violation are among the categories embraced by this term. A court-ordered supervision does not normally prevent an individual from seeking relief under the expungement laws of Illinois. However, there is one notable exception: a supervision received for driving under the influence (“DUI”) in violation of 625 ILCS 5/11-501 et seq. does make an otherwise expungeable criminal record non-expungeable.
Additionally, the Illinois expungement and sealing statute also defines the terms “criminal offense” and “minor traffic offense”, and distinguishes between the two by stating that the latter does not render an individual ineligible from expungement relief. 20 ILCS 2630/5.2(a)(1)(D) defines a “criminal offense” as including petty offenses, misdemeanor and felony offenses, but excluding minor traffic offenses. A “minor traffic offense” is further defined in the statute to include petty offenses and Class C misdemeanors under the Illinois Vehicle Code, or other similar provisions of a municipal or local ordinance. (See 20 ILCS 2630/5.2(a)(1)(G).) In a nutshell, basically, it is only where a traffic violation rises to the level of a misdemeanor offense that a conviction will bar an individual from seeking expungement of his/her entire adult criminal record. Examples of these types of traffic violations include driving while license suspended, reckless driving and DUI, among others.
The bottom line here is again that the Illinois expungement and sealing laws are quite intricate and nuanced. It truly is in a person’s best interest to consult with an attorney proficient in the complexities of the statute to determine how he/she should proceed with the expungement and/or sealing process.