Senate passes bill to bring justice for those wrongfully arrested, charged

April 4, 2019

Sen. Collins' bill would waive fees to petition for expunging, sealing false criminal records in Cook County.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (April 4, 2019) — Cook County’s criminal justice system could become fairer through a new bill that relieves wrongfully arrested and charged people of the burden of paying to clear their names. Senate Bill 482championed by state Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, would waive fees to expunge or seal records for people in Cook County who have been acquitted, had their convictions reversed, or whose charges have been dropped or dismissed.

The bill passed today 53-0 on the floor of the Illinois Senate.
Many people cannot afford to petition the court to correct their record for crimes they did not commit. This bill would remove that financial burden and allow people wrongfully arrested or charged the opportunity to clear their names.
SB 482 would be an extension of a pilot program under the Criminal Identification Act, which began in 2016 and lapsed Jan. 1.

“As unjust as it is to face a wrongful arrest, charge or conviction, it can be a lifelong sentence to have records with false information linked to you. It is not fair that someone has to pay to clear his or her name in these cases,” said Amy Korte, research director for the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute. “We applaud Sen. Collins for her work to remove unfair barriers to work and life opportunities for people who have already suffered injustice.”

The bill now moves to the House, and if approved, will make its way to the governor’s desk.

  • Wrongful arrests and charges are a rampant problem in Illinois. Nearly 20% of arrestees in Cook County jail ultimately have their charges dropped, according to Sheriff Tom Dart.
  • In Cook County, the fee to have records expunged or sealed is $120. Expunging means to delete records entirely as if the event never occurred. Sealing means to make records hidden unless court-ordered.
  • If lawmakers vote to renew the pilot program in the Criminal Identification Act, it would take effect immediately upon becoming law and extend through Dec. 31, 2020.

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