Expungement is a court process that forces the police and courts to hide your juvenile record from view. It prevents the general public and most employers from viewing your criminal record. To get your record expunged, you have to file a petition with the court and then go to a hearing in front of a judge.
What are juvenile records?
Juvenile records are the police reports, computer database entries, and court documents that are created when a person under age 18 is accused of a crime. Every time a person is arrested, even if they are a teenager, a record is created. Learn more about what juvenile records are.
Aren't juvenile records already hidden?
Sort of. All law enforcement and court records in juvenile court are confidential under the law. This means that juvenile records can only be shared under certain circumstances. However, there are many exceptions to the general rule of confidentiality. Expunging juvenile records is the only way to make sure that others can not see the records.
Effective January 1, 2018, all juvenile records that have not been expunged will be sealed automatically. Juvenile records will not be shown to the general public or made widely available except in some cases. Sealed records will be shown only if there is good cause. Also, a juvenile court judge will have to order the records to be unsealed for anyone who is not authorized to see them. Anyone who is not authorized and reveals a sealed juvenile record can be sued and fined $1,000.
When can juvenile records be expunged?
Different types of juvenile records can be expunged at different times.
Once the case is closed
You used to have to wait until your 18th birthday to file to expunge any part of your juvenile record. As of January 1st, 2017, some juvenile records are eligible to be expunged as soon as the matter is closed, even if you are not 18 at that time.
The situations where you can expunge a juvenile record as soon as the case is closed are as follows:
- You were arrested and never went before a judge (this includes informal and formal station adjustments, and some diversion programs);
- A juvenile case was filed, and the charges were dismissed;
- A juvenile case was filed, and you were found not guilty;
- A juvenile case was filed, you were found guilty of charges, and you were sentenced to “supervision,” which you finished; or
- A juvenile case was filed, and you were found guilty of a Class B or C misdemeanor offense (for example, mob action or disorderly conduct).
After a waiting period
Sometimes there is a waiting period before you can expunge a juvenile record.
If you were arrested as a juvenile, a case for a Class A misdemeanor or felony offense (not including exceptions above) was filed against you, and you were found guilty of that offense, you are eligible to expunge that record under the following circumstances:
- You have turned 21 years old, or it has been 5 years since the date your sentence was completed (whichever is later); and
- You have not been convicted of any offenses (including misdemeanors) since you turned 18. If you have been convicted as an adult, you are never eligible to expunge any findings of guilty for Class A misdemeanors, or felony offenses, from your juvenile record.
If you were found guilty of murder or a felony sex offense in juvenile court, those records are never eligible to be expunged. If you are required to register as a sex offender for a juvenile case, you may be able ask a judge to order you off the sex offender registry.
What about automatic expungement?
The automatic expungement law, which became effective on January 1, 2015, applies to arrest records that are only held by the Illinois State Police.
After making a juvenile arrest, local police departments are required to report some arrests to the Illinois State Police. Since the local deparments also keep a record, there can be multiple places where a record is kept. The law removes some of the records from the Illinois State Police files without any petition to the court.
The Illinois State Police will only automatically remove these records if:
- A juvenile has been arrested for a misdemeanor, or Class 3 or 4 felony offense,
- No juvenile cases are filed, and
- The juvenile is not arrested again for 6 months.
The original records that were created and held by local police departments still remain. Even if this provision applies to you, you must still petition the juvenile court to expunge your juvenile record to remove the records from the local police department.
Beginning January 1, 2018, the law will change. The court will automatically expunge your arrests that do not go to court. Your juvenile records will also be automatically expunged if you go to court and is not found to be delinquent. If you are found to be delinquent, the court will automatically expunge your record after 2 years as long as you are not found to be delinquent in another case.
What if this is my first offense?
If you are found guilty of a Class A misdemeanor offense in juvenile court, and it is your first offense, then you are eligible to expunge this juvenile record on your 18th birthday if your lawyer makes a motion during your case. If you or a family member have a pending juvenile case, talk to your lawyer about whether or not this provision of the law applies.
What happens when my juvenile record is expunged?
Once the judge has entered an expungement order for your eligible juvenile records, you should make sure you have a copy of that signed expungement order for your records. You will receive notice from the Illinois State Police when the expungement of the records has happened. Until you receive that notice, you should assume that the record is still available and not fully expunged.