Illinois expands automatic expungement of juvenile records

A year after a report showed the extent to which the state’s expungement policies have failed juveniles with criminal records, Illinois lawmakers simplified the process for young people and also strengthened confidentiality protections.

HB 3817 was signed into law in August. 
The bill’s intent is to remove barriers that keep individuals from accessing opportunities in employment, housing or education that often require a background check. 
“Those are three critically important things for anybody, but especially for somebody who has their whole life ahead of them,” says Rep. Elaine Nekritz, sponsor of the legislation. 
Illinois already had laws to automatically expunge the records of juveniles for certain offenses, but an Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission report showed how infrequently this was occurring: For every 1,000 juvenile arrests, only three were being expunged. 
HB 3817 expands automatic expungement to include the following:
  • Arrest records that do not result in charges being filed, as long as one year has passed since the arrest occurred and the young person has had no subsequent arrests in the previous six months;
  • Records of cases that are dismissed, that result in a finding of not delinquent, or that result in court-ordered supervision that is later completed;
  • Records of a juvenile found guilty of a Class B or C misdemeanor, or a petty or business offense; and
  • Records of a juvenile found guilty of a Class A misdemeanor or a nonviolent felony, as long as two years have passed since the case was closed, no cases are pending, and the juvenile hasn’t had any subsequent court findings of guilt. 
Juveniles adjudicated of all other offenses are still required to petition the court to have their records expunged. (Some offenses, such as first-degree murder and certain sex crimes, are not eligible for expungement.)
The new law also addresses another concern raised in last year’s Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission report — the common practice of informally, and illegally, sharing juvenile records.
Prior to passage of HB 3817, the state had no penalties or legal remedies in place. But now, the willful dissemination of an expunged juvenile record is a Class C misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of $1,000 per offense. Additionally, individuals whose expunged records are wrongly disseminated have the ability to take legal action.
According to the Juvenile Law Center, only three other Midwestern states (Iowa, Indiana and South Dakota) enforce similar penalties. 
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Stateline Midwest: October 20172.11 MB