ALTON — County agencies will join forces Saturday, June 18, to host the first Madison County Expungement Day at the law office of Simmons Hanly Conroy.
Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office representatives and the circuit clerk will be on site, along with volunteer attorneys, to assist eligible individuals in expunging or sealing their criminal records. Drug testing will be available. The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and activities for children will be provided.
Individuals with a criminal background often have difficulty re-entering the workforce. An expungement or sealing can give people a second chance by removing that employment barrier caused by a past encounter with the law years ago.
“An expungement can be a life-changing event, but many people who are eligible are intimidated by the process or don’t know where to start,” Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said.
According to the American Bar Association, people with criminal records are subject to legal and regulatory sanctions and restrictions, in addition to the sentence imposed by the court. As a result, millions of Americans are consigned to a kind of legal limbo because at one point in their past they committed a crime.
“We have worked for years as litigators, but at the Expungement Day our lawyers will be mitigators,” said John Simmons, chairman of Simmons Hanly Conroy, the Alton-based law firm that employs more than 70 attorneys. “We hope to help people mitigate the nagging and sometimes barrier-creating effect of old run-ins with the law.”
Expungement is a court-ordered process that causes a legal record of an arrest, court supervision or certain probations to be erased, or expunged, from that person’s criminal record. Sealing, which has a similar application process to expungement, prevents businesses or other agencies from accessing a person’s criminal record without a warrant. It is not uncommon for the entire process to take four to six months to complete.
The expungement process includes filling out petitions related to each charge or arrest, which then must be notarized by the clerk’s office and sent to the Department of Illinois State Police and the arresting agency for review. If no objections are raised, a final decision is made by a county judge. County agency representatives say they hope the expungement day will decrease the process to 90 days.
Anyone planning to attend should come prepared on June 18 with the following information:
• The case number;
• The date of arrest;
• The arresting law enforcement agency;
• The charges brought;
• Any paperwork they have relating to each case.
Attendees can expect to meet with an attorney on a pro bono basis when they arrive. The attorney will review their paperwork, ensure they are eligible to participate and answer any questions.
“We understand that completing the expungement and sealing process can be a difficult and lengthy process,” Madison County Circuit Clerk Mark Von Nida said. “The Madison County Expungement Day is a way for our departments to get out in the community and help individuals who are eligible to have their records cleared complete the process in an efficient and timely manner.”
The county agencies will assist in expediting the processes by allowing attendees to file all the paperwork at once. After meeting with an attorney, attendees will go to the circuit clerk booth to submit their paperwork and pay filing fees. However, the court may grant a fee waiver based on income and other factors.
A 30-day window will be provided to those who need additional time to secure the necessary paperwork or complete a drug test. After 90 days, a Madison County judge will review submitted expungement or sealing requests and issue a final ruling in mid-September.
Gibbons said he is grateful to Simmons and the Simmons Hanly Conroy law firm for volunteering their office building and legal expertise.
“We welcome the chance to help give our neighbors a second chance at making a better future for themselves and the community,” Simmons said.
For more information regarding the Madison County Expungement Day, contact Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholder Amy Garrett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the expungement and sealing processes in Illinois, visit www.illinois.gov/osad/Expungement/Pages/Expungement-and-Sealing-General-Information.aspx.
About Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC
Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC is one of the nation’s largest mass tort law firms and has recovered more than $5 billion in verdicts and settlements for plaintiffs. Primary areas of litigation include asbestos and mesothelioma, pharmaceutical, consumer protection, environmental and personal injury. The firm’s attorneys have been appointed to leadership in numerous national multidistrict litigations, including Yaz, Toyota Unintended Acceleration and the Volkswagen Emission Scandal. The firm also represents small and mid-size corporations, inventors and entrepreneurs in matters involving business litigation. Offices are located in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Alton. Read more at simmonsfirm.com.