Being convicted of a drug crime in Illinois can have serious negative consequences and can massively impact your future. Regardless of whether you were convicted of a misdemeanor or felony drug charge, having a criminal record can impact your ability to find employment, apply for education, vote, travel, and much more.
The criminal justice system treats drug-related crimes harshly and its primary concern is securing convictions and moving cases through the system. Individual rights are not a high consideration in the criminal legal system, and the consequences of a conviction are not important to those making the rules. The only way to ensure that your rights are protected during a criminal trial and to prevent your future from being tarnished is to hire a competent criminal defense lawyer.
At Hirsch Law Group, we know how difficult life can be with a criminal record for a drug conviction and we have seen how the criminal justice system negatively impacts the accused far too many times. As a law firm made up of former prosecutors, we have been on the other side of the law, and we know the tricks that they use to secure a conviction. Our focus is now on protecting defendants’ rights and providing aggressive representation to ensure that those rights are protected.
Our attorneys have been recognized among the Best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Chicago 2022 by Enterprise.com and have won multiple awards for their dedication to criminal cases. The best way to ensure your best interests are protected is by getting legal help from our law firm.
Call us today to schedule a free consultation at 815-880-1134 with a criminal lawyer in Winnebago County.
Consequences of a Drug Conviction in Illinois
Drug charges are not treated lightly in Illinois, and the courts take a strict approach toward drug-related criminal offenses. The court system and arresting agency do not care about your future and how a criminal conviction will impact your life. Their priority is ensuring that your case gets through the court as soon as possible, and a prosecutor wants to secure a conviction to build up their numbers.
If you are facing drug charges in Illinois, the serious consequences of a criminal conviction are something that you are probably worried about. On top of the initial criminal penalties of jail time, massive fines, probation, and court-ordered rehab, you will, unfortunately, have a criminal record, which can last for a lifetime.
Life with a criminal record is significantly more difficult than without, and individuals convicted of drug crimes face difficulties in many different parts of life. Even for a minor possession charge, your future opportunities could be seriously impacted by having a criminal record.
Drug-related convictions almost always result in permanent criminal records, whether they are misdemeanor or felony charges. The consequences of a criminal record are severe and can have a long-lasting impact on your life. With a criminal history, you will face harsher penalties for any further crimes you commit and if your arrest record includes a violent crime, you will be ineligible for court-ordered rehab.
Your criminal records will affect your ability to travel outside of the US, apply for a visa if you are not yet a citizen, vote in elections, get custody of your children, and take part in normal society to the full extent. Criminal records can make people feel ostracized from their community due to the harsh limitations placed on individuals convicted of crimes. With a drug conviction, you will have to declare your criminal record and face judgment because of this.
One of the most difficult consequences of criminal records for those convicted of a drug crime is background checks. When you serve time for a crime and spend time in prison, on probation, or in a rehab center, you expect to be able to move on with your life and begin a new chapter. However, the major limiting factor that you are faced with is background checks.
When you apply for a new job, to a university, or for a loan from a financial institution, they will perform a background check to figure out whether you have been convicted of a crime. Some types of jobs do not accept individuals who have a criminal record for drug crimes, including jobs involving children, government jobs, and education.
If you want to return to or attend an education facility, you will have to declare your criminal records. Although it is possible to get accepted to a school with a criminal record, it is much more difficult. Similarly, if you want to apply for a financial loan to fund your education, you will be required to declare your criminal records. Banks and financial institutions often have less trust for people who have been convicted of a crime and are reluctant to give out loans.
What is Record Expungement?
Once you are convicted of a drug crime in Illinois, the criminal records that you receive are permanent, even if you were convicted of a minor drug possession charge when you were 21. However, in some cases, there is a way of getting these convictions or arrest records ‘cleaned’ or erased from your record, known as record expungement.
Record expungement in Illinois essentially cleans a criminal conviction from your record and makes it invisible to anyone who performs a background check on you. This means that with an expunged record, you can apply for jobs and for loans and honestly declare that you do not have a criminal record.
To apply for record expungement in Illinois, you must submit an expungement petition in the same county where your criminal case was heard. The Illinois Criminal Identification Act provides certain instances in which a criminal record can be expunged or sealed. However, there are very strict requirements for getting your criminal record expunged. In many cases involving a drug conviction, a criminal record cannot be expunged.
Expunged Record vs. Sealed Record
Because it is so difficult to get a record expunged in Illinois, many people who have a drug conviction are unable to get their convictions expunged. As a more accessible alternative to record expungement, people with drug convictions may have the option to get their records sealed. Sealed records are similar to expunged records in that they will not be visible to members of the public and most employers will be unable to access a sealed record, so they are essentially hidden.
However, a sealed record will still be visible in court records, to law enforcement officers, and some employers such as the government. Sealing records is the best option for those with a drug conviction as it allows them to start clean with a hidden record, and they will be able to apply for bank loans, most jobs, and to education with a clean record.
Am I Eligible For Expungement in Illinois?
As noted above, the conditions for getting a record expunged are quite stringent and will rarely be accessible to those with a drug conviction. However, you may be eligible for expungement in Illinois if your case meets the following requirements:
- Your conviction was pardoned, reversed, or vacated
- Arrest records that did not result in a conviction
- You have been honorably discharged as a veteran
- You received qualified probation and five years have passed
- Supervision sentence where the waiting period has passed
- Completed court supervision for a misdemeanor
Unless you meet the requirements listed, you will be unable to get your drug conviction expunged. The system makes it quite difficult for people to get their misdemeanor or felony convictions expunged and for most people, this option is not available. If you believe you may be eligible for expungement, you should speak with one of our experienced Illinois expungement lawyers. They can advise you on what options may be available for you.
Am I Eligible For Record Sealing in Illinois?
The requirements for record sealing are much less stringent and may be available to you if you were convicted of a drug crime. If you were convicted of a misdemeanor charge it will be much easier to get your record sealed. Sealing felonies is a more complicated task, and you will be unable to seal certain types of felonies including DUIs, domestic battery or assault, violent crime, sex offenses, and gun crimes.
Circumstances in which you can get your record sealed in Illinois include:
- Misdemeanors and felonies that did not end up in a conviction
- Most misdemeanor and felony charges after 3-5 years, excluding the exceptions listed above, such as violent crimes and DUIs
- Minor traffic offenses that did not result in criminal charges
- Some minor sex offenses provided that you did not have to register under the Sex Offender Registration Act
- Reckless driving conviction if you were under the age of 25 at the time you received the conviction
If you have more than one drug conviction on your criminal record, you have to go through the sealing process for each individual conviction. It is only possible to expunge or seal a conviction if your charges meet these requirements, as such it is important that you speak with an attorney that has in-depth knowledge and experience with Illinois law on expungement.
Can I Expunge a Conviction For Marijuana Possession in Illinois?
As of January 1st, 2020, marijuana possession and cultivation for personal use is legal all over Illinois. The Cannabis Control Act, which legalized the use of cannabis for medical and personal use, also provides methods for individuals to get their old marijuana convictions expunged in certain cases. Many individuals in Illinois have had their lives impacted by marijuana convictions for minor possession or dealing, and this new law allows people to move on from their life and begin the expungement process.
Your marijuana conviction can automatically be expunged if it meets the following requirements:
- Involved 30 grams or less of cannabis
- Was a marijuana possession or dealing charge
- Was committed before June 25, 2019
If the charge also involved a violent crime, or if you were charged or convicted of dealing marijuana to children under the age of 18, you will be unable to get your records expunged.
For minor marijuana possession offenses, your charges will be automatically expunged. Your record will be sent to the Prisoner Review Board and they will recommend the government to grant a “pardon authorizing expungement”. The attorney general will then file a petition to get your records expunged in the same county where you were charged with the crime.
If the marijuana conviction was more serious, such as possession of higher quantities or dealing, you will have to file a petition to get your charges expunged. A criminal defense lawyer can help you with this process.
How a Criminal Lawyer in Winnebago County Can Help You Get Your Record Expunged
Although it may be possible to get your criminal record expunged or sealed in Illinois, it is important to remember that this process is not in any way easy. The system is built against the accused and all legal avenues that make it easier for a defendant are often complicated and difficult to navigate without legal experience. In addition, police and prosecutors are fighting against you and do not want to see you get your conviction expunged or sealed.
With record expungement, the Illinois state police, the state’s attorney, and the arresting agency have the ability to object to your seal or expungement request. The judge has the final decision, however, and it is up to them whether you can expunge or seal your record, even if you qualify. When petitioning your case, it is important that you have a strong criminal defense attorney by your side. They will argue on your behalf to ensure that your criminal record is sealed or expunged and that any power of the police or state attorney does not ruin your chances of getting a new start.
From the get-go, an attorney will help guide you through the complexities of the law, explain your chances of getting an expungement, help you fill out legal forms, and submit a petition on your behalf. Having a strong attorney is the key to ensuring that your records can get sealed or expunged, as you will have a fierce legal advocate by your side.
The lawyers at Hirsch Law Group can help you with all stages of record expungement. Whether it is for simple marijuana possession or a more difficult charge, we will fight tooth and nail to ensure that your rights are protected and you can move on with your life. As former prosecutors, we know the tricks that they play and we will use this knowledge to your benefit. We have built up a strong attorney-client relationship due to our hard work and dedication to clients.
Can I Expunge a Drug Conviction in Illinois?
Being convicted of a drug crime can have a huge impact on your life. The court system and police in Illinois do not treat those charged with drug crimes lightly, and considerations of a person’s life and future are never a top priority. If you were convicted of a drug crime and are facing life difficulties as a result, you may have the option of getting your criminal records expunged or sealed, which can help you move on to a new stage of life.
As of now, marijuana possession and dealing convictions are the only drug-related criminal offenses that can be completely expunged from your record. It is, however, possible to get your drug conviction sealed which has the same benefits as the expungement process. To get your record expunged or sealed, it is important that you seek help from an experienced criminal lawyer in Winnebago County.
At Hirsch Law Group, we have seen how having adult criminal records for drug convictions can have a huge impact on your life. Our law firm has helped many clients expunge or seal their records to allow them to begin a new chapter of life. The expungement or sealing process is not straightforward, and it is not geared in favor of the accused. As such, it is important that you have strong legal representation by your side to ensure your rights are protected.
Call us today to schedule a free consultation at 815-880-1134.