The mandatory waiting period for sealing a felony conviction can be found in 20 ILCS 2630/5.2(c)(2)(C) which states, “records identified as eligible under subsections (c)(2)(D) [which references all criminal convictions including felonies] … may be sealed 3 years after the termination of the petitioner’s last sentence.” “Last sentence” refers to the petitioner’s most recent sentence on any case even if the case is different from the one he is seeking to seal. Hence, if a petitioner wanted to seal a 2010 felony Burglary conviction but just completed a sentence on a recent DUI with a hypothetical completion date of January 5, 2019; it would appear that this petitioner would not be eligible to have the Burglary conviction sealed until January 5, 2022 (3 years after the petitioner’s last sentence).
There is an underused exception to the foregoing waiting requirement which can be found at 20 ILCS 2630/5.2(c)(2)(E) which states, “Records identified as eligible under subsections … (c)(2)(D) … may be sealed upon termination of the petitioner’s last sentence if the petitioner earned a high school diploma, associate’s degree, career certificate, vocational technician certification, or bachelor’s degree, or passed the high school level Test of General Education Development during the period of his or her sentence, aftercare release, or mandatory supervised release.”
Based on the above exception a petitioner could eliminate the mandatory 3 year waiting period simply by fulfilling one of the above requirements while serving his most recent sentence. The above hypothetical petitioner would be able to petition to seal his Burglary conviction on January 5, 2019 if he obtained his associates degree while serving his DUI sentence. Courts have not interpreted what qualifies as a career certificate and that term is not defined in the statute. Therefore, it is fertile ground for lawyers to argue when clients are eligible for early sealing based on this underused provision of the statute.