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Expungements can be a great help to persons who have had their charges dismissed, either outright or after a sentence.

In Illinois a state remedy to expunge is readily available for certain persons who have previously been charged wtih a criminal offense.  The charge must result in an arrest card being filled out.  Therefore, most traffic citations don't qualify to petition for an expungement.  However, all misdemeanors do qualify, whether they are traffic based or not. 

To file the petition to expunge the client must first know if they have standing.  Most of the time that means they need to determine if they can immediately proceed with the petition or if they have to wait a certain amount of time before they file the petition.  If the case is outright dismissed or taken to trial and acquitted, the client can them immediatley file for an expungement.  There are certain policies in differing state's attorney's offices that require a person to wait a certain amount of time before filing if the dismissal was by agreement.  Only an attorney who regularly practices in that county knows the answer to this issue.

If you qualify to file then a petition to expungment must be filled out and several copies prepared and filed with the circuit clerk.  There is a filing fee that varies depending upon which county you file in.  The petition is readily available online and can be filled out with or without an attorney.  The hiring of an attorney greatly increases the odds of obtaining an order granting the petition to expunge. 

Next the petition needs to be served upon all parties as required by statute.  Normally the Illinois State Police, arresting agency and the State's Attorney for the county that you are filing the petition in must all be served.  They are given a certain amount of time to object to the petition.  If they object the matter is set for hearing.  If no one objects the petition is granted. 

If a party objects the matter is set for hearing.  At the hearing the judge will determine first if the petition was timely filed.  Then the judge moves on to determine the disposition of the underlying criminal charge(s).  The judge then listens to evidence why the petitioner is seeking this remedy.  The state voices their objection and the defense responds to their objection.  The court then either denies or approves the petition.  If the petition is approved you would be very wise to obtain at least one copy of the order.  Once the petition is processed by the circuit clerk it becomes nearly impossible to obtain proof that the expungement petition was granted.  This may become an issue if a NCIC background search is conducted where the charge that has been expunged is located by a prospective employer.  In such a case the charge will appear but it will not show on the NCIC as being dismissed. 

The reason for this is the petition to expunge is a state remedy.  The NCIC is the federal database that is routinely checked for background searches.  There is no remedy to remove a charge from the NCIC. 

If you decide to pursue an expungement or need further advice feel free to contact an experienced attorney.

Brian L. Polinske
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