Examining State Police expungement statistics

by Sami Azhari on October 4, 2011

Expungement Statistics

The Illinois State Police are mandated by law to keep track of how many petitions to expunge or seal they receive each year, and what the outcome is. This is a new legal obligation. It became mandatory through the Expungement Backlog Accountability Law. 20 ILCS 2630/14.

In the past, the State Police were notorious for delay in processing the expungement of criminal records. In cases where judges ordered the State Police to expunge arrest records, the process would not be completed for months or longer. People who were granted an expungement were denied jobs because of the failure by the State Police to process the expungement.

The issue became acrimonious because some accused the State Police of deliberately stalling or refusing to comply with expungement orders. I remember hearing rumors that some judges were about to hold the State Police in contempt of court for disobeying expungement orders. I cannot recall that it ever happened, though.

State lawmakers decided that they would need to impose a duty on the State Police to process the expungements more efficiently. And to keep tabs on it, lawmakers established a system for keeping statistics.

Click here to download the Illinois State Police first report.

The results are interesting.

In one year, the State Police received 11,092 expungement petitions and 5,959 petitions to seal. It stands to reason that this is a good estimate for the number of petition to expunge and/or seal filed statewide because the State Police have to be notified on every petition.

The ISP objected to 1,474 petitions to expunge (about 13 percent), and 882 petitions to seal (14.8 percent).

The Department of State Police also collected $694,200.00 in fees related to processing expungements.

What happened to the petitions that were objected to? It is hard to tell from the statistics. By law, every petition that is objected to should receive a hearing. The judge would rule during the hearing whether to overrule the objection and grant expungement or sealing, or sustain the objection and deny the petition to expunge and/or seal.

And so it seems the outcome in each case depends on the facts of the case, the lawyers, and the judge.

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