Historic expungement and sealing reform legislation drafted and supported by Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart passed the Illinois House today with bi-partisan support.
HB 6328 removes two critical barriers for pursuing arrest expungements:
- Allows people to seek expungements of arrests where the charges were dropped (or found not guilty) even if they have previous unrelated convictions on their record. Under current law, anyone with a previous conviction for any offense – no matter how long ago – is barred from applying for arrest expungements.
- Eliminates the fee of $120 or more to apply for expungements for those who have had their charges dropped.
The bill does not expand the offenses for which expungement relief is available.
HB 6328 marks the first legislation in Illinois history that would actually make it less burdensome for individuals to expunge parts of their arrest records.
“For far too long, government has filled its coffers with overly punitive criminal justice policies directed at the poor and vulnerable,” said Sheriff Dart. “This legislation will disrupt that insidious practice, while giving both non-violent ex-offenders as well as the falsely accused opportunities to restore their good names and pursue long-term employment and stability.”
According to Sheriff’s Office research, 17 percent of the more than 70,000 people who enter Cook County Jail every year get released as a result of having their cases dropped or being found not guilty, and this does not even take into account those who could afford to pay their bonds or were given house arrest. The inability to overcome the legal and financial burdens of securing expungements often locks non-violent offenders out of the job market, substantially increasing their rates of recidivating back into Cook County Jail. Sheriff Dart strongly feels that the expungement application fee of $120 or more serves as an irrational and unjust burden for people who have had charges dropped or were found not guilty.
The expungement reform legislation marks the latest step in Sheriff Dart’s push to encourage job opportunities for non-violent ex-offenders, a campaign of which Crain’s Chicago recently editorialized in support. Sheriff Dart regularly holds job fairs in the Cook County Jail’s Mental Health Transition Center, directly connecting minimum security individuals in custody with prospective employers. He also launched his flagship Restoring Neighborhoods Workforce (RENEW) initiative in 2013, teaching individuals in custody marketable job skills in the field of deconstruction while taking down dilapidated vacant housing in distressed suburban Cook County communities.
“This bill can help stop the cycle of incarceration, giving ex-offenders an opportunity and a path toward supporting themselves and their families,” said Assistant Majority Leader Arthur Turner, who sponsored the bill in the state House of Representatives.
House Republican leader Jim Durkin and 16 other Republicans joined 52 Democrats in supporting the bill, which passed the House 69-42. It now goes to the State Senate, where State Sen. Jacqueline Collins is the sponsor.