News Local/State

Criminal Record Relief Available Through Expungement and Record Sealing Summit

expungement summit flyer

The 3rd annual expungement and record sealing summit will take place on October 6 in Urbana. But applicants must register by July 27. Champaign County Circuit Clerk

For anyone who’s ever been arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime, that criminal record can make it hard to find a job.

Many people are eligible for criminal record relief that would either destroy or seal their record from public view. But Champaign County Circuit Clerk Katie Blakeman said the legal process is complicated.

“It’s really difficult for the individual to determine their eligibility and get everything together and file the paperwork correctly,” Blakeman said.

Having a legal professional assist with the process can increase a person’s chance of having the record relief granted by the judge, but Blakeman said the costs can prevent people from seeking that help.

To help remove these barriers, the Champaign County Circuit Clerk’s office is hosting a free event with attorneys and legal volunteers — provided by Cabrini Green Legal Aid, Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation and Spiros Law — who can help people through the process.

“If the person is eligible, they’ll prepare a petition for them,” Blakeman said. “But if not, they’ll give them counseling on when they might be eligible, if it’s perhaps a waiting period” or other steps they might need to take to become eligible.

Blakeman said criminal record relief not only removes barriers to employment, but can also help people access jobs with higher wages.

“There are many people who are employed, but perhaps are underemployed,” Blakeman said. “So maybe they have the skills or experience to work in a higher paying position, but that criminal record is holding them back from being able to gain that kind of employment And once they do, they are better able to earn a better wage for their families.”

Filing fees will be waived for all participants, and transportation and childcare will be provided on the day of the event, thanks to support from community partners, which include the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District and the Urbana Park District.

Blakeman said one of the lessons learned from the first time her office hosted this event in 2016 is that unpaid fines and fees are one of the most common barriers to criminal record relief. To help remove this barrier, her office will host a One-Time Amnesty event for outstanding court fines and fees, from September 10 through 14. Collection and late fees will be waived, which Blakeman said can save a person about 30 percent. 

The 3rd annual expungement and record sealing summit will take place on October 6 in Urbana. But applicants must register by July 27, to allow enough time for the legal volunteers to determine eligibility and prepare the necessary paperwork, which requires obtaining fingerprints and acquiring the applicant’s full criminal history transcript from the Illinois State Police.

Find more information — and register online — at the Champaign County Circuit Clerk’s website.

Follow Christine on Twitter: @CTHerman