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Bill to clear false criminal records for free moves to governor’s desk

6/3/2019, 3:59 p.m.
Cook County is on its way to making it easier for those wrongly accused of crimes within the county to ...

Cook County is on its way to making it easier for those wrongly accused of crimes within the county to clear their name. After passing unanimously out of the Illinois House and Senate, Senate Bill 482 now heads to Gov. J.B. Pritzker's desk.

Championed by state Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, and state Rep. Art Turner, D-Chicago, SB 482 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. SB 482 would extend a pilot program under the Criminal Identification Act, which originally took effect in January 2017 and lapsed this Jan. 1.

“Thousands of Illinoisans face lifelong struggles because they cannot afford the fee to correct the false information in their records. The General Assembly has recognized this injustice, and we commend them for standing together on behalf of those facing wrongful arrests, charges or convictions,” said Amy Korte, research director for the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute. “We urge Gov. Pritzker to take swift action and sign this bill.”

Nearly 20% of arrestees in Cook County jail are released because their cases are dropped or they are found not guilty, according to Sheriff Tom Dart’s office. Many of these people face financial barriers to petitioning the court to clear their names. The current fee to have records expunged or sealed in Cook County is $120, and SB 482 would remove that financial burden for those wrongfully arrested, charged or convicted.

The bill would take effect immediately upon Gov. Pritzker’s signature, and the fee waiver program would extend through Dec. 31, 2020.

For bookings or interviews, contact media@illinoispolicy.org or (312) 607-4977.