As an attorney who has been helping clients clear their criminal records for over 14 years I am shocked that Governor Rauner’s signature on the latest groundbreaking legislation has not received more media attention. For years I received phone calls from clients who wanted to seal felony convictions but were not legally eligible. On August 24, 2017 a new law took effect which will open the flood gates for rehabilitated individuals to make themselves employable again. House Bill 2373 removed the general restriction that prevented most felony convictions from being sealable. Prior to the passage of this law most individuals with felony convictions had to apply for executive clemency if they wanted a clean record. Executive Clemency was a difficult process and the petitioner would often wait years before a result was rendered and the probability of success was low. This is no longer the case as applicants may now apply to have virtually all criminal convictions (felonies & misdemeanors) sealed from public view. There are still some exclusions to eligibility which may be found in 20 ILCS 2630/5.2 but most convictions are now eligible for sealing.
Laws relating to expungements and sealing have been changing frequently. For those individuals who have been weighed down by the stigma of a felony conviction on their record this legislation is a dream come true. I am concerned that most convicted felons are not aware of this new law as they have been told for years that relief was not available and many have likely given up. All practitioners must spread the word to former clients that relief is finally available and the time to act is now while this forgiving piece of legislation remains in place.