Governor signs SB 482 to clear false criminal records for free

August 9, 2019

Illinois Policy worked with Sen. Collins and Rep. Turner to extend Cook County’s pilot fee-waiver program

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Aug. 9, 2019) – Today, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed Senate Bill 482 into law, relieving those wrongly accused of crimes within Cook County from the burden of paying to clear their names.

The nonpartisan Illinois Policy partnered with state Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, and state Rep. Arthur Turner, D-Chicago, to introduce this criminal justice legislation. The bill passed unanimously out of the Illinois House and Senate this session with 11 legislative sponsors.

What does SB 482 do? 
SB 482 waives fees for expunging and sealing records for those in Cook County who have been acquitted of a crime, had their convictions reversed or whose charges have been dropped or dismissed. Expunging deletes records entirely, as if the event never occurred. Sealing hides a record from public view, unless a court order opens it.

Why is the bill needed? 
Wrongful arrests and charges are a problem in Illinois. Nearly 20% of arrestees in the Cook County jail ultimately are released because their charges are dropped or they are found not guilty, according to Sheriff Tom Dart’s office.

The current fee to have records expunged or sealed in Cook County is $120, but across the state, that fee can reach up to $300. These fees unfairly raise financial barriers for people looking to petition the court to clear their names. This bill removes that burden in Cook County.

When does it take effect?  
The fee waiver program is effective today and extends through Dec. 31, 2020. The pilot originally ran in Cook County from January 2017 to Jan. 1, 2019.

Amy Korte, research director for Illinois Policy, testified in committee on behalf of the bill and offered the following comment: 

“This is an important win for Illinois’ criminal justice system. Thousands of Cook County residents, who have already suffered injustices from wrongful arrests, charges or convictions, will no longer have to face barriers to opportunities because they can’t afford the fee to correct false information in their records.

“We are grateful to the General Assembly and the governor for passing this bill into law and we commend them for standing up for those who have been treated unfairly. We encourage policy makers to consider this step toward fairness for the rest of the state’s criminal justice system, too.”

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