New Illinois law on expunging traffic tickets

by Lewis Gainor on February 16, 2012

Expungement and Sealing of Traffic Offenses

Expungement is the process in which a person who was charged with a crime but cleared of any wrongdoing can go to court and request that the court erase the record of the case. The person can file a petition to expunge and then go before a judge for a hearing. If the prosecutor does not object, the petition would be granted and the judge would issue a written order directing the circuit clerk, police department and Illinois State Police to expunge any record of the criminal case.

Sealing a record takes place in much the same way, except that the result is the record is not erased but rather made confidential. The public cannot see a sealed record without a court order.

For a long time in Illinois, it was possible to expunge or seal traffic offenses. Commercial driver’s license holders took advantage of this law and frequently expunged moving violations to keep their driving records clean.

But state lawmakers had knowledge of this practice in 2009 and passed a bill that substantially changed the expungement and sealing process.

Starting on January 1, 2010, it became impossible to expunge or seal most traffic tickets. The legislature changed the expungement statute, 20 ILCS 2630, to prohibit the court from doing so.

The court shall not order the sealing or expungement of records of minor traffic offenses, unless the petitioner was arrested and released without charging.

See 20 ILCS 2630/5.2(a)(3)(B).

And so, it is prohibited under the new law to expunge or seal most traffic tickets. It is irrelevant whether the offender got court supervision or a conviction. Neither can be expunged or sealed. Evidently state lawmakers were concerned about multiple CDL violators expunging their records and avoiding stiffer penalties in traffic court.

Under the statute, a “minor traffic offense”  is any petty offense, business offense, or Class C misdemeanor under the Illinois Vehicle Code or a similar provision of a municipal or local ordinance. See 20 ILCS 2630/5.2(a)(1)(G).

A speeding ticket that is less than 30 mph over the posted limit is a petty offense, and thus, a minor traffic offense. See 625 ILCS 5/11-601(b). These can no longer be expunged or sealed.

However, a ticket for driving without a valid license is a Class B misdemeanor (625 ILCS 5/6-101) and it may be possible to expunge or seal a record of that offense.

Likewise, an arrest for driving while license suspended or revoked is a Class A misdemeanor. See 625 ILCS 5/6-303. It may be possible to expunge or seal that charge.

The change in the expungement statute is important for anyone with a traffic court date because now a ticket can be a permanent record. Generally, there are no traffic tickets that ‘don’t go on your record,’ as so many people are fond of saying.

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