Illinois Gives Ex-Offenders a Helping Hand By Expanding Criminal Sealing Rules
Last Thursday, Governor Bruce Rauner signed several bills into law to help ex-offenders move forward with their lives. One of the most significant bills signed that day was House Bill 2373.
Effective immediately, HB 2373 is the largest single expansion of the sealing rules ever taken in Illinois or - for that matter - anywhere in the United States. For the first time, individuals who have been convicted of felonies such as burglary, robbery, or aggravated battery, can seek to seal their convictions. The new law also expands what drug offenses can be sealed. Previously, only Class 3 and 4 felonies offenses (possession, possession with intent to deliver or manufacture) were eligible to seal. Further information about the new sealing rules can be found here.
Expanded Sealing Rules Still Leave Certain Crimes
The new law still excludes certain felony and misdemeanor offenses from being sealed. Offenses that remain ineligible to seal: 1) domestic battery (misdemeanor or felony); 2) order of protection violations; 3) sex offenses (excludes prostitution or misdemeanor public indecency) where the person must register as a sex offender (some offenses impose lifetime registration requirements); 4) offenses subject to registration requirements under the Arsonist Registration Act or the Violent Offender Against Youth Registration Act; 5) animal cruelty; and 6) DUI & reckless driving.
Fewer People Will Need Clemency
The enactment of HB 2373 comes at a good time for Illinois residents who have a background. Prior to its passage, the only way to remove a serious criminal conviction from one's background was to petition the governor for clemency. Under Governor Rauner, the number of people receiving clemency has dropped to just under 4%. Under former Governor Pat Quinn, nearly a third of the petitions he reviewed were granted.
With the sealing expansion, fewer individuals will need to apply for clemency. This is especially the case if someone's primary objective is to remove their record from the prying eyes of companies who do employer background checks.
If, however, you are looking to reinstate your FOID card rights or have a conviction that is keeping you from obtaining a professional or occupational license, clemency remains the only way to obtain the relief needed. Of course, if your conviction is still not sealable under the expanded sealing rules, clemency remains your only remedy.
The Great Unknown: How Will Judges Respond to New Sealing Rules
The right to seal is not guaranteed under the law. The power to grant or deny a petition to seal rests solely with the judge. We will have to see whether judges will hesitate to use their expanded sealing authority. I fully expect judges will hold more hearings before they decide whether to grant these petitions.
We also dont know how local prosecutors will respond to the new law. Currently, in Cook County, the State’s Attorney Office routinely opposes petitions to expunge and seal on "public policy" grounds. These objections arise when someone has been arrested but not convicted of domestic battery or has a lengthy criminal record (doesn''t matter how old the cases).
I encourage everyone, whether you’ve looked into sealing your record in the past or not, to contact A Bridge Forward LLC at firstname.lastname@example.org or 847-804-0157, and let me help you be one of the first to take advantage of the new law.