Record Numbers Signed Up For Expungement Summit

Champaign County seal.

Seal of Champaign County government.

Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media.

This Saturday, nearly 300 Champaign County residents will gather at a church in Urbana to try to get their criminal records expunged or sealed.

The 279 people registered to attend the county’s 4th Annual Expungement and Record Sealing Summit want their past arrest and court records officially destroyed --- usually in cases where there was no conviction. Or they may be seeking to have certain convictions sealed from public view, although they can still be accessed by law enforcement and employers for jobs that involve working with children. Some convictions, like sexual violence and DUI cases, are not eligible to be sealed. Others are eligible after a waiting period, and the completion of terms of probation.

Champaign County Circuit Clerk Katie Blakeman says there's a significant number of people who may be eligible to have their criminal records expunged or sealed. 

“The statistics of the number of Americans who have been arrested before their 21st birthday is a minimum of one in four,” said Blakeman. “It’s really your neighbors, your friends. It’s not this unidentifiable other.”

Those who will be attending the Summit have already made preparations, which include getting fingerprinted by local police and organizing transcripts of their arrest and court records. Some who are seeking to seal records of a drug conviction may have taken a drug test as part of their application. Blakeman said police departments in Champaign County, have waived their fees for fingerprinting, removing a roadblock for low-income participants. The Expungement and Record Sealing Summit also waives filing fees and will have attorneys present to offer free legal advice.

Expungement or sealing is not guaranteed, as the petitions filed at the Summit are subject to a judge’s ruling at a future date. If an objection is filed against any petition, a court hearing may be held, where the petitioner can present their case to the judge.

Blakeman says the most common reason people have for seeking expungement and record sealing is to improve their job prospects.

“They might have skills that can lead to a much better-paying job, or an educational background that they have,” said Blakeman. “But they’ve been prevented from working in that field because of a past criminal history.

Blakeman says expungements and record sealing can have a dramatic effect on people as they work to rebuild their lives in a new direction. She noted a talk that a past Expungement and Record Sealing Summit participant gave to her staff recently, about the impact expungement had on her life and employment.

“And it was really, really inspiring for our staff, because it’s an incredible amount of work that we do, leading up to the event,” said Blakeman. “And it is really impactful.”

Blakeman says participants in the Expungement and Record Sealing Summit registered over the summer, so they would have time to prepare for the event. She says people interested in next year’s summit – or other processes for seeking expungement or sealing of records – may contact the Champaign County Circuit Clerk’s Office at 217-384-3725 for more information.

Story source: WILL