Chicago Lawyers Volunteer to Seal, Expunge or Erase Arrests and Guilty Pleas

Even some of the lowest level arrests and criminal convictions can haunt a person for life. Through the volunteer work of attorneys at the Cabrini Green Legal Aid clinic (CGLA), Cook County Clerk Dorothy A. Brown, and The Center on Halsted, work is under way to provide expungement and record-sealing assistance for Chicago-area residents. This is vitally important because arrests and convictions pose hurdles for anyone who wants to apply for student loans, federally funded housing, state licenses and a whole host of other employment opportunities.

A seminar was held at The Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St. in Chicago, to educate 20 volunteer attorneys who will help those with records of crimes and/or arrests to expunge or seal their past deeds.

The hurdle is high to expunge a criminal record of arrest, but many who plead guilty to low-level crimes don’t understand that a conviction cannot be expunged. Beth A. Johnson is the program director at CGLA who is one of the attorneys leading this effort.

On the other hand, sealing hides the criminal record from public view, but does not erase it as far as law enforcement goes. This is important for individuals applying for jobs, Illinois licenses and school loans. According to Ms. Johnson, most misdemeanors are ineligible for sealing as are some felonies like prostitution and possession of a controlled substance.

In order to succeed in either expungement or sealing, the individual must apply, then appear before a judge and face the possibility that a state’s attorney may argue against that relief.

Legal work on expungements and sealing is becoming more focused because of the fact that individuals are removed from the workplace and possibly public housing as a result of their criminal past. There are many Illinois licenses that are unavailable to persons with arrest records or even low-level criminal convictions. In addition to CGLA, the Chicago Legal Clinic and The Center on Halsted, a joint effort is under way with CGLA and the Union League Club of Chicago’s Public Affairs Committee on Administration of Justice to provide an informative brochure to individuals who may be facing a guilty plea without knowing the ramifications. Consequential consequences of a plea of guilty leave many in jeopardy of joblessness without even knowing it.

The movements to inform the people of Chicago and Cook County is to make it possible for everyone to have better information before agreeing to plead to a criminal conviction. In addition, it is essential for these individuals with arrest records to attempt to seal them to much improve their chances for employment and a higher education.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling trial work of all kinds for individuals and families for more than 36 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Berwyn, Schaumburg, Palatine, Chicago (River North), Clarendon Hills, Chicago (Chatham), Chicago (Chinatown), Worth and Chicago Heights, Illinois.

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