SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Continuing her efforts to improve the criminal justice system and make it easier for people to find good paying jobs, state Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, recently passed legislation to remove financial barriers to seal or expunge criminal records.
“Last year, I held an Expungement Summit that helped hundreds of people navigate the process they must follow to expunge or seal their criminal records,” Gordon-Booth said. “With the support and guidance from many people in our community, they were much closer to getting a second chance; however, despite meeting all of the other requirements, far too many people were denied this opportunity because they had outstanding court fines.”
From her experience working with individuals who have sought to expunge their records, Gordon-Booth introduced House Bill 5341, or the Fair Access to Employment (F.A.T.E.) Act. Currently, after completing a lengthy expungement and sealing, it needs to be approved by the courts, with input from the state’s attorney, prosecutor, the Illinois State Police and the arresting agency. Under this legislation, the approval process remains the same; however, the court cannot consider denying a petition for sealing of a criminal record based solely on outstanding court fees. For someone applying for an expungement, the court has the ability to use its discretion about whether or not a person’s record can be expunged. Additionally, for someone who had their record sealed while having outstanding court fees but pays them afterwards, the cost associated with expunging their record will be waived.
“People unable to pay court fines to get their record sealed typically have difficulties finding good paying jobs, entering them into a vicious circle,” Gordon-Booth said. “Helping people find employment is crucial to reducing violence, ending poverty and strengthening our community. This measure is an important step forward as we continue to reevaluate our criminal justice in the state.”