If you’ve ever been arrested—even if you weren’t convicted, and even if your case was dismissed—you now have a criminal record. This is a black mark on your history which never expires. It shows up anytime someone runs a background check on you, and it can serve as an obstacle to getting a job, a loan or a lease.

However, you may be unaware that you can get certain items on their criminal record cleared—but it requires some initiative on your part. The state of Illinois offers two options two remove offenses from your criminal record: sealing and expungement.

Sealing

When you have on offense on your criminal record sealed, you essentially cover it up. It will no longer show up in a background check. Employers and creditors no longer have access to this information. The only way for a lay person to uncover your criminal history is with a court order.

Expungement

When you expunge an offense, you erase it. It’s as though the offense never occurred. Even with a court order, no one can discover this offense. Expungement offers an important benefit over sealing. For instance, when you apply for a job, many employers ask whether you have any criminal convictions. If your conviction has been expunged, you are legally permitted to answer “no” to this question.

The requirements for sealing and expungement are different. Generally, however, the following types of offenses are not eligible to be cleared:

  • DUI or reckless driving
  • Domestic battery
  • Sex crimes
  • Animal crimes
  • Violation of a protection order

There are some exceptions to the above exemptions. A criminal defense attorney can walk you through your eligibility for clearing your record.