Volunteer judges and attorneys will help people start the process to seal and expunge — or remove from one’s criminal history — court records for free on Saturday.
The inaugural St. Clair County Expungement Summit will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Information Sciences Building at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville. SWIC is located at 2500 Carlyle Ave., across from Walmart in east Belleville.
“We hope that anyone whose St. Clair County adult criminal records poses a barrier, especially a barrier to employment or housing, attends the summit to get assistance and information about his (or) her eligibility for expungement or sealing,” Judge Zina R. Cruse, a St. Clair Circuit Judge, wrote in an email.
Organizers will stop accepting applications between noon and 1 p.m., Cruse wrote. She recommends that anyone who plans to come to the event arrive before noon to get assistance. If people cannot make it before then, they will be provided with free advice on how to get assistance elsewhere.
Involvement with the criminal justice system often has far-reaching consequences, Cruse said. Someone’s case may have been “dismissed or he (or) she was never charged,” or, in other circumstances, someone has paid a fine. “However, the negative consequences continue, despite the age and severity of the offense, and pose a lifetime sentence when it comes to certain issues such as employment and housing.”
“Expunging or sealing of criminal records offers those who qualify a second chance and allows some individuals with a criminal history the opportunity to return to mainstream life by obtaining employment or better paying employment, paying taxes, and in general becoming a more productive member of the community,” Cruse wrote.
Expunging records removes them from one’s criminal record, and sealing records “prevents most employers from accessing a person’s criminal record without legal authority,” the release said, adding that the sealing process may take four to six months to complete.
Whether participants can expunge records depends on the ruling and how recent someone’s sentence was completed, Cruse wrote. “Many misdemeanors and some felony convictions may be sealed.”
Not everything can be expunged or sealed, however. “Convictions and supervisions for DUIs, domestic battery, violation of orders of protection or no stalking orders, and various sex crimes, such as criminal sexual assault are not eligible,” Cruse said.
“Also, if an individual is currently on probation, parole or has a pending criminal case, including certain traffic cases, they will be ineligible to have their record sealed or expunged at the summit,” she added.
We hope that anyone whose St. Clair County adult criminal records poses a barrier, especially a barrier to employment or housing, attends the summit to get assistance and information about his (or) her eligibility for expungement or sealing.
Judge Zina Cruse, St. Clair County Circuit Judge
Applications for expungement and sealing can be filed with the St. Clair County courthouse at the event, though records will not be immediately expunged or sealed. Instead, people will be given a court date in 2017 when a “judge will decide whether to allow the sealing or expunging.”
“The county agencies in attendance will assist in expediting the processes of expungement (or) sealing by allowing attendees to file all necessary paperwork ... on site,” according to a news release.
Event planners recommend people bring documents relating to their cases and prepare a handful of facts, including:
▪ The case number
▪ The date of arrest
▪ The arresting law enforcement agency
▪ The charges
Attorneys, available free of charge, will review paperwork, check whether attendees are eligible to participate and answer any questions, according to the release.
Attendees may have to pay filing fees, but the court may waive them.
Want to go?
- What: St. Clair County Expungement Summit
- When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., arrive before noon.
- Where: SWIC Information Sciences Building
- Details: Bring documents relating to your case