Logo of the law office of vincent j. pagano.
March 20, 2024

Will A Sealed Record Show Up On A Background Check?

Lawyer discussing documents with client in a consultation meeting, with a gavel and scales of justice on the table.
Share:

In today’s digital age, the shadow of a past criminal record can loom large over various aspects of life, impacting one’s ability to secure employment, find suitable housing, and access educational opportunities. In Illinois, the legal framework surrounding sealed records and background checks serves as a critical juncture for those looking to move past a criminal history.

This article will explore the intricacies of Illinois legislation regarding sealed records and delve into how these legal provisions affect the lives of individuals striving for rehabilitation and a fresh start.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover:

  • Understanding Sealed Records: Define sealed records and differentiate them from expunged ones, focusing on Illinois law.
  • Sealed Records and Background Checks in Illinois: Examine how sealed records interact with various types of background checks within the state.
  • Legislation and Changes in Illinois: Review recent legal changes and their implications for individuals with sealed records.
  • How I Can Help: As an experienced criminal defense attorney in Chicago, I’ll outline the assistance I can provide in sealing records and navigating background checks.

Defining Sealed Records in Illinois

In Illinois, a sealed record refers to a criminal record that has been hidden from the general public, including potential employers and housing authorities. Unlike public records, sealed records are not accessible through standard background checks, thereby providing individuals with a fresh slate in the eyes of society. However, these records remain visible to law enforcement agencies and certain government entities, especially when security clearances or specific positions related to children or government are involved.

Woman consulting with a professional in an office setting.

The Legal Process of Sealing a Record

The process to seal a record in Illinois involves a legal procedure where individuals, often with the assistance of experienced criminal defense attorneys, petition the court to seal their criminal records. Under the Illinois Criminal Identification Act (20 ILCS 2630/5.2), not all crimes are eligible for sealing; however, many offenses, particularly those not resulting in conviction or that are non-violent in nature, may be sealed.

The application process for record sealing requires meticulous documentation, including a complete criminal history and evidence of rehabilitation. There is a waiting period after the completion of a sentence or probation before an individual can apply for sealing, which varies depending on the offense. For instance, most felony offenses require a three- to four-year waiting period, underscoring the importance of timing in the sealing process.

Crimes Eligible for Sealing

The types of crimes that can be sealed in Illinois have expanded over time, thanks to legislative efforts aimed at improving rehabilitation prospects for former offenders. Typically, non-violent offenses, such as drug possession or theft, are eligible for sealing. However, serious crimes, such as sex crimes, certain felonies, and DUIs, are generally not eligible. Understanding the specific types of crimes that qualify for sealing is crucial for individuals seeking to clear their records and rebuild their lives.

Criminal Record Expungement vs. Criminal Record Sealing

It’s important to distinguish between expunged and sealed records, as they represent different levels of privacy and access. Expungement is the process of erasing a criminal record completely as if the offense never occurred. This means that expunged records are removed from all databases and are not accessible to public or private entities, including law enforcement.

On the other hand, sealed records are not available for public access and most private entities but remain accessible to law enforcement agencies and certain government positions. This distinction is vital for understanding the extent of privacy and freedom a person can expect when their records are sealed versus expunged.

A person's hand browsing through an organized file cabinet with labeled index tabs.

Sealed Records in Standard Criminal Background Checks

Typically, sealed records do not appear in standard background checks. This means that for most job applications, housing inquiries, or educational opportunities, a sealed record should not impact an individual’s chances. The sealing process aims to alleviate the long-term consequences of past convictions, allowing individuals to apply for jobs or housing without the burden of their past mistakes overshadowing their qualifications and character.

Exceptions and Specific Situations

However, there are exceptions where sealed records might still be visible:

  1. Government Jobs and Security Clearances: For positions within the federal government or those requiring a high level of security clearance, sealed records may be reviewed as part of the background check process.
  2. Positions Involving Children: Jobs in schools, daycares, or child care settings often require a more thorough background check to ensure the safety of children. In these cases, sealed records, particularly those involving offenses against minors, may be accessed and considered.
  3. Law Enforcement and Legal Positions: Candidates for law enforcement roles or certain legal positions may be subject to comprehensive background checks that include access to sealed records. This scrutiny ensures that individuals in these critical roles meet the highest standards of integrity and trustworthiness.
  4. Professional Licenses: Certain professional licenses, such as those for healthcare workers, attorneys, or individuals seeking a firearms license, may also necessitate a more detailed background check. Licensing bodies may have the authority to review sealed records to evaluate an applicant’s suitability for the profession.
  5. Fingerprint-Based Background Checks: Unlike standard background checks, fingerprint background checks used by certain employers, especially in government or law enforcement, can access a more comprehensive criminal history, potentially including sealed records.

What Employers Typically See During a Background Check

During a background check, employers typically have access to convictions but not arrests that did not lead to a conviction. If a record is expunged in Illinois, it means that the conviction expunged should not appear, effectively offering a clean slate to the individual. This aspect is especially important for those seeking employment, as it widens their opportunities.

However, when a record is sealed, the details are less accessible to the public but might still be seen by certain employers, particularly in fields that require a high level of security or trust. 

Two professionals shaking hands over a desk with documents.

Do Sealed Juvenile Records Show Up on Background Checks?

When it comes to sealed juvenile records, many people wonder if these will appear during a background check. Generally, sealed juvenile records are not visible to most employers or organizations conducting standard background checks. This means that for most jobs, a person’s sealed juvenile record should not impact their employment opportunities. 

However, there are exceptions to this rule, especially for positions that require a higher level of security clearance or involve working with vulnerable populations, such as in schools or healthcare facilities. 

Legislative Changes and the Impact on Sealed Criminal Records in Illinois

Illinois has witnessed significant legislative changes aimed at improving the lives of individuals with past criminal records. These legislative updates reflect a progressive approach towards criminal justice reform, acknowledging the long-term impacts of criminal records on employment, housing, and overall quality of life. By enabling more people to seal their records, Illinois law aims to facilitate rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

Improvements for Individuals with Sealed Records

The legislative changes are designed to make the sealing process more accessible and efficient, thereby providing tangible benefits for individuals:

  1. Expanded Access: By increasing the types of crimes eligible for sealing, more individuals can apply for relief, particularly those with non-violent drug offenses or minor theft charges.
  2. Reduced Waiting Periods: Shorter waiting times mean that individuals can start the sealing process sooner, accelerating their journey towards a clean slate.
  3. Streamlined Application Process: Efforts to simplify the application for record sealing mean fewer bureaucratic hurdles, making it easier for individuals to navigate the system without extensive legal help.

These improvements aim to address barriers that previously hindered individuals’ ability to secure employment, find suitable housing, or pursue educational goals due to a criminal record. By providing a clearer path to sealing records, the legislation supports individuals in their efforts to rebuild their lives.

Two professionals discussing a document with a law book on the table.

Unlock Your Future: Partner with a Proven Criminal Defense Attorney

The path to sealing records is fraught with legal intricacies, but you don’t have to walk it alone. I’m here to guide you from start to finish, ensuring your eligibility assessment, application drafting, and filing are handled with the utmost precision and care. I aim to shield your sealed records from prying eyes, safeguarding your prospects in employment, housing, and beyond.

Your journey and challenges are unique, and I honor that with bespoke legal strategies crafted just for you. Regardless of the complexities of your case, from drug offenses to misdemeanors, I’m here to offer robust support and up-to-the-minute legal advice.

Past mistakes should not dictate your future. Whether you’re seeking better job prospects, stable housing, or a new beginning, I’m ready to help you achieve your goals. Your brighter tomorrow starts today. Contact me now, and let’s embark on this journey to reclaim your reputation and unlock new opportunities.

Scroll to Top