Separating Fact from Fiction: 10 Things You Should Know About Having a Criminal Record (Part Two)

Separating Fact from Fiction: Ten Things You Should Know About Having a Criminal Record (Part Two)

Several months ago I published the first part of a two-part blog posting on separating fact from fiction on the ramifications of having a criminal record. This posting includes the remaining five things you should know if you have a criminal record in Illinois:

    1.    Your criminal history does not automatically fall off your record after seven years.

  • This is a commonly-held misconception. Nothing comes off your criminal record unless you do something about it. The seven-year rule likely comes from the federal law (the Fair Credit Reporting Act) that restricts how far back you can report on information relating to someone’s credit history (e.g., a discharge in bankruptcy).

2.    Unlike your credit history, there are no limits on how far back a consumer reporting agency (CRA) can report on someone’s conviction history.

  • Limits are placed on to how far back a CRA can report on someone’s arrest history.  Although Illinois law prohibits employers from asking about arrests, employers legally obtain this information when they hire a CRA to run a credit and/or criminal background check on a prospective job candidate. CRAs are not regulated by Illinois law but by federal law.  

3.    Employers in Illinois are prohibited from asking whether you have an arrest record or to disclose criminal history you’ve expunged or sealed.

  • These restrictions are found in the Illinois Human Rights Act. If you are questioned about your arrest history, in violation of the Act, you can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights.

4.    Some convictions will disqualify you from obtaining an occupational or professional license from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation but there is no per se bar to obtaining a license because you are a convicted felon.

  • Unlike Illinois, there are some states that automatically bar convicted felons from applying for any kind of occupational or professional license.

5.    In Illinois, unlike some states, there are no written guidelines setting forth who is eligible to apply for executive clemency (pardon) from the governor. The unwritten rule is that you have been crime-free for a minimum of 8 to 10 years.

  • Although experienced advocates believe someone should wait 10 years before applying, there are exceptions to this rule if, for example, there are factors that would explain why the individual committed the crime (e.g., mental illness, substance abuse, provided you can show that you’ve successfully sought help to overcome your addiction).