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June 19, 2024

Expunged But Not Erased: Who Can See Expunged Records?

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Did you know that nearly one in three Americans has a criminal record? This startling statistic highlights the pervasive impact of criminal records on individuals’ lives, affecting their employment, housing, and educational opportunities. Criminal records can significantly limit one’s ability to move forward, even after paying one’s debt to society.

Expungement offers a legal avenue to mitigate the negative consequences of a criminal record. It provides a fresh start by sealing past convictions from public view, but the process and its effectiveness raise important questions. Chief among them: “Who can see expunged records?”

In this article, we will explore:

  • Understanding Expungement: Definition, purpose, and legal process.
  • Who Can See Expunged Records?: Entities and circumstances allowing access.
  • Protecting Your Privacy: Rights and legal recourse for individuals.
  • The Law Office of Vincent Pagano Can Help: Our expertise and services in expungement.

Read on to uncover the intricacies of expungement and how you can protect your privacy and future opportunities. For expert legal assistance, contact our experienced expungement lawyers at Law Office of Vincent Pagano.

who can see expunged records

Expungement: Understanding Its Definition, Purpose, and Legal Process

Expungement is a legal process that allows individuals to have certain criminal records sealed or removed from public view. According to the Illinois Compiled Statutes, expungement means the physical destruction or obliteration of records or the return of the records to the petitioner, thereby rendering the records inaccessible to most entities.

Purpose and Benefits

The primary purpose of expungement is to mitigate the long-lasting effects of a criminal record, enabling individuals to move forward with their lives without the stigma of past offenses. Expungement benefits individuals by providing opportunities for better employment, housing, and education. It essentially offers a second chance by giving individuals a clean record, free from the public access that can hinder their progress.

According to a study by the University of Michigan Law School, individuals with expunged records see an average increase in wages by 22% within one year, underscoring the significant economic benefits of this legal remedy.

The Legal Process

Steps Involved in the Application Process of Obtaining an Expungement:

  1. Expungement Eligibility Assessment:
    • The first step in the expungement process is determining eligibility. Not all criminal offenses qualify for expungement. In Illinois, eligibility criteria are outlined in the Criminal Identification Act.
    • Factors include the type of offense, the time elapsed since the conviction, and the individual’s criminal history records.
  2. Filing a Petition:
    • Once eligibility is confirmed, the next step is to file a petition for expungement with the appropriate court. This involves completing specific forms and providing supporting documentation.
  3. Court Review:
    • After the petition is filed, the court reviews the case. This review includes examining the petitioner’s previous convictions and the circumstances surrounding the offenses.
  4. Hearing:
    • In some cases, a hearing is required. During the hearing, the petitioner or their expungement attorney may need to present their case to a judge.
    • The judge considers factors such as the nature of the offense, the petitioner’s behavior since the conviction, and any objections from law enforcement agencies.
  5. Decision:
    • Finally, the judge makes a decision to grant or deny the expungement. If granted, the court orders the expungement of the records, which are then removed from public access.
    • If denied, the petitioner may have the option to appeal the decision or reapply after addressing specific concerns raised by the court.

Legal Criteria and Requirements:

  • Type of Offense: Non-violent offenses, such as misdemeanors and some felonies, are often eligible for expungement, while more serious crimes like violent felonies or sex offenses may not be.
  • Time Elapsed: A certain period must typically elapse after the criminal conviction or the completion of the sentence before one can apply for expungement. In Illinois, this period varies depending on the nature of the offense.
  • Behavior Since Conviction: The petitioner must generally demonstrate good behavior since the conviction. This includes having no new criminal charges and showing efforts at rehabilitation, such as completing community service or substance abuse programs.

Understanding the expungement process is crucial for anyone seeking to clear their criminal record. The benefits of expungement are substantial, providing individuals with the opportunity to rebuild their lives free from the burdens of a past criminal offense. With the guidance of an experienced expungement attorney, the process can be navigated effectively, ensuring the best possible outcome.

Who Can See Expunged Records?

A prevalent misconception about expungement is that it completely erases a criminal record. However, expungement does not mean total destruction of records. According to Illinois law, expunged records are not available to the general public but are not obliterated entirely. Instead, they are sealed, meaning they are hidden from most searches but still exist within certain databases.

What Happens to Expunged Records

When a record is expunged, it is removed from public view and placed in a sealed file. These records are typically kept by the criminal justice agency that originally handled the case. For example, the Illinois State Police maintains a confidential database of expunged records, ensuring they are no longer part of public records but still accessible under specific legal conditions. This distinction is critical for understanding the true nature of expungement versus sealing.

Legal Access

Entities with Access: While expunged records are generally inaccessible to the public, certain entities retain the ability to access them. These entities include:

  1. Law Enforcement Agencies:
    • Law enforcement and government agencies, such as the police and the FBI, can access expunged records for criminal justice purposes. This includes ongoing investigations, background checks for law enforcement employment, and other security-related matters. 
  2. Certain Employers:
    • Employers in sensitive industries, such as those involving children, the elderly, or security, may have the legal right to view expunged records. The Illinois Department of Children and Families can access expunged records when considering applicants for positions involving direct contact with children.
  3. Licensing Boards:
    • Licensing agencies that oversee professional certifications, such as medical boards, legal licensing authorities, and financial regulators, can access expunged records during their review process. This ensures that individuals seeking licensure meet all legal and ethical standards. 

Curious to learn if a sealed record can show up on a background check? Find the answer to your question in Will a Sealed Record Show Up on a Background Check.

Understanding the limitations of expungement is essential for individuals seeking to clear their criminal records. While expungement provides significant benefits by removing records from public view, it does not entirely erase them. Law enforcement agencies, certain employers, and licensing boards may still access these records under specific legal circumstances.

Protecting Your Privacy

According to Illinois law, once a record is expunged, it is removed from public view, meaning that it cannot be accessed by most potential employers, landlords, or private entities conducting background checks. 

Being well-informed about who can access your expunged records is crucial. Knowledge empowers you to better manage your privacy and ensures you can confidently pursue opportunities without fear of your past hindering your future. 

Actions to Take if Expunged Records Have Been Improperly Accessed or Disclosed

If you suspect your expunged records have been improperly accessed or disclosed, immediate action is essential. Under Illinois law, improper disclosure of expunged records can lead to significant legal consequences for the offending party. First, document any instances where you believe your expunged records have been accessed or disclosed without proper authorization. This includes noting dates, times, and entities involved.

Guidance on Seeking Legal Assistance

Consulting with an experienced expungement attorney is the next critical step. An attorney specializing in criminal record expungements can provide invaluable guidance on how to address violations of your privacy rights. They can help you understand the complexities of the law, file necessary complaints, and take legal action if needed.

The Law Office of Vince Pagano in Chicago, Illinois, offers expert legal services to individuals seeking to protect their expunged records. Our team is dedicated to ensuring that your expunged records remain confidential and that any unauthorized access is addressed promptly and effectively.

Contact the Law Office of Vince Pagano Today for Expert Expungement Assistance

Expungement is a crucial legal tool that helps individuals move beyond their past criminal offenses and seize new opportunities in employment, housing, and education. However, understanding the nuances of who can still access expunged records is essential for protecting your privacy and future. 

Our Services

At the Law Office of Vincent Pagano in Chicago, Illinois, we specialize in criminal law and expungement cases, offering comprehensive legal support to help you achieve a clean record. Our services include:

  • Legal Consultation: We provide thorough consultations to assess your eligibility for expungement and explain the expungement process in detail.
  • Representation: Our experienced expungement attorneys will represent you throughout the legal proceedings, ensuring all paperwork is correctly filed and all legal requirements are met.
  • Follow-Up Support: We offer continuous support even after your expungement is granted, helping you understand and protect your rights.

If you are considering expungement and want to ensure your privacy and future opportunities are protected, contact our law firm today. Our dedicated team of experienced expungement lawyers is ready to provide you with the expert legal assistance you need. Reach out to us for a consultation and take the first step toward a brighter future.

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