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Mission Moment - Steven's Story

December 14, 2021

Steven P. came to CGLA seeking help to seal and expunge his criminal record. In his early 50s, a 2016 conviction prevented him from finding meaningful employment. Despite this obstacle, Steven went through the Chase Bank/Safer program to find work after his probationary period was completed. During his probation, Steven completed a food safety program, meeting the criteria laid out by the Illinois Criminal Identification Act to waive the waiting period via a vocational certificate. CGLA prepared and filed his paperwork to seal his conviction.

The State filed a statutory objection to Steven's petition, asserting it is ineligible under Illinois law. Arguing that Steven was still in a waiting period to seal, even after they were provided a copy of his certificate, stating that a food safety license was an insufficient vocational certificate to waive the waiting period requirement.

The day of his hearing, CGLA presented the judge with Steven's food safety certificate and asked that the State's objection be dropped. The judge initially stated that he was unsure whether Steven's certificate met the statutory criteria to waive the statutory waiting period. As a result, CGLA introduced to the court the relevant language in the act that gives petitioners broad means to waive the waiting period to seal. The statute offers multiple avenues for petitioners to waive the waiting period because the legislative intent of the act was to be applied broadly, not just for those privileged enough to afford higher education.

Despite this information, the judge was still hesitant to grant the petition, pointing out that a bachelor's degree would also satisfy the waiver requirement. CGLA argued that, while the judge was correct that a college degree was one of the methods for waiving a waiting period, it was not the only way, and that the Illinois legislator did not intend for it to be the only way. A college degree could be prohibitively expensive for individual petitioners. To set the bar for the waiver at that standard was antithetical to the statute's legislative intent.

After considering the arguments, the judge agreed with CGLA's position and ruled that a food safety certificate was an adequate method to waive the waiting period. This ruling could not have come at a better time for Steven as he was in the middle of the interview process for a new job. The application asked him to list if he had any arrests or convictions on his record. Because of the sealing, he was able to write "no" and now has a real chance at meaningful employment.

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