If you’re interested in seeing a person’s criminal record in Illinois, you’ll need to know the proper channels to go through. Criminal records in Illinois are a bit different than they are in other states.
In some states, a person’s criminal record can include their arrest record as well. However, in Illinois criminal records available to the public include only convictions. This is because of a 1991 law mandating how criminal records would be disseminated to the public.
The law also requires that the Bureau of Identification, under the Illinois State Police, collect and maintain all criminal history record conviction information. Those wanting this information must get it through the Illinois State Police bureau. Those seeking this type of information can’t get it online or through digital means in Illinois.
We’ll explain how to access criminal records and provide links to helpful resources.
What is a criminal record?
A criminal record is an official document detailing a person’s criminal convictions, pending criminal cases, prior arrests, and other interactions with law enforcement agencies. Additional names for a criminal record include criminal history record, rap sheet, and a police record.
As with marriage records and court records, criminal records are generally public records in the United States and can be accessed through a criminal background check. However, public access to specific criminal record information varies from state to state.
In the State of Illinois, criminal records are publicly accessible through the Illinois State Police.
What is included in an Illinois criminal record?
As criminal records are kept by law enforcement agencies at all levels of government in the United States, an Illinois criminal record may vary in format and content depending on the law enforcement database from which it is accessed.
Generally, an Illinois criminal record will include the following information:
- A person’s full name and possible aliases
- Personal information such as age, date of birth, sex, ethnicity, height, weight, and other physical characteristics
- Fingerprints and mugshot
- Misdemeanor criminal offenses and convictions
- Felony criminal offenses and convictions
- Traffic records
- Past and outstanding arrest warrants
- Prior arrests
- Pending and dismissed charges
Why would someone access a criminal record?
There are several reasons why someone would want to see someone’s criminal record.
- Criminal records can be required for background checks or to obtain a security clearance.
- Criminal records can also be used by law enforcement or attorneys in subsequent cases, investigations, or by court officials to recommend a sentence. Judges, specifically, can also look at them to determine a sentence.
What’s the difference between an infraction, misdemeanor, and felony?
When you access a criminal record, the person listed on the record may have an offense listed. Criminal offenses are usually broken into three categories: Infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.
An infraction is a minor violation, a misdemeanor is more serious, and a felony is the most serious type of crime.
To better understand the information listed on a criminal record, here’s a quick overview of each offense and its severity:
- Infraction: A small traffic violation or littering are considered infractions. An infraction is a minor violation of the law. Usually, punishments are a warning or a fine. Typically, no jail time is associated with an infraction.
- Misdemeanor: If someone were to get a DUI or a drug violation, it’s considered a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is more serious than an infraction but less severe than a felony. Jail time of less than a year or probation are usually associated with these types of crimes. Likely, the offender will do time in a local or county jail.
- Felony: Murder, rape, and arson are considered felony charges. A felony is the most serious type of crime. Offenders are typically sentenced to jail for more than a year and are likely held in a state or federal facility.
What is the difference between an Illinois arrest record and an Illinois criminal record?
An arrest record is an official document including the details of a specific arrest. A criminal record is a more comprehensive document that includes a person’s entire criminal background known to law enforcement agencies.
Both types of documents are usually public records in the United States, although information about specific arrests may be sealed and rendered inaccessible to the public for a variety of reasons.
Whether an arrest record or a criminal record is accessed, the information listed is for state crimes only. If a person is involved in a federal crime, this information is not listed on a state record.
How do I search for an Illinois criminal record?
There isn’t a state database to search online. Those seeking to obtain a criminal record from the state of Illinois will need to get them either in person or by mail. Also, those seeking these types of reports will need to go to the source like the police department or court where the case was heard, to get records.
There is typically a cost for the report, but it is typically low. Criminal reports by mail but those making the request should make sure everything required is included in the request.
How do I obtain a physical copy of an Illinois criminal record?
Criminal record requests covering the entire state can be obtained through the Illinois State Police (ISP). These records will include both arrests and convictions occurring within the state. Only those wanting records on themselves can get records that also include arrests.
To obtain a full criminal record, the applicant must get fingerprints taken. This can be done at the Illinois State Police, Bureau of Identification, 260 N. Chicago St., Joliet, IL, 60432. Office hours are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. but there could be changes in hours and personnel due to COVID-19. Those wishing to make an appointment can call 815-740-5160 and choose option 2.
Applicants requesting their criminal records can also get their fingerprints done at any licensed live scan fingerprint vendor. These vendors will take your fingerprints and send them to the ISP.
The ISP sends criminal records through an emailed encrypted version. To read it, those seeking criminal reports must get an online permission certificate and an encryption application to use on their computer. The other alternative is to pick up the report at the office.
Those arrested in Chicago can obtain their Chicago Record of Arrests (RAP) Sheet that lists arrests, charges, and court outcomes for the city. This costs $16 and is payable by cash, check or money order at the time of the request. Those wanting this record must either go in person to the Chicago Police Headquarters, 2510 S. Michigan Ave, Chicago or by mail. Be aware that those seeking these records will need several things when they place the order including:
- A set of fingerprints from a local police department or an authorized vendor
- A photocopy of an ID
- A letter asking for a copy of the RAP sheet with a phone number
- A self-addressed stamped envelope if ordering by mail.
How do I search for Illinois criminal case court records?
Those seeking criminal case court records will need to do some traveling to get them. In this state, those wanting such records must obtain them from the court where the case was heard. The request is made through the local clerk of court.
Cook County has the largest number of court cases and doesn’t offer online access. Records of cases heard in Cook County can be obtained by going to the Circuit Clerk’s Office in the local court district where the case was heard. There are six districts with each covering a specific part of Chicago. Those who have cases in different districts must go to each district to obtain those records.
Those wishing to access records in the Circuit Court of Cook County must use the public access terminal at a Cook County courthouse. The clerk in the districts may charge a certified disposition fee but many times you can buy a certified disposition of your case directly from the court for $9.
In circuit courts beyond Cook County, those seeking criminal case court records can ask the clerk for a copy or ask if there is a public access computer to use to pull the records. Looking them up on the court computer is free, but there will be a fee for the court to make copies.
Does Illinois allow criminal records to be sealed or expunged?
Yes, the State of Illinois allows records to be sealed or expunged. The state law requires a five-year wait from the last sentence to file for an expungement. Illinois has an Access to Justice initiative that began in 2012 to help people in sealing or expunging their criminal records. There are free, legally correct forms approved for use by the Supreme Court Commission that are required to be accepted in all Illinois courts.
Those filling out the form can handwrite or type on the PDF form. However, those using the forms must have Adobe Acrobat or free Adobe Reader XI or higher to save the completed forms. The forms can be emailed but must be fixed where nothing can be changed once it is completed. Those needing more help can get it from Illinois Legal Aid Online, which provides a guided interview, and then the free program completes the form for you.
How can I have false information on an Illinois criminal record corrected?
Those wishing to correct a criminal record can do so in Illinois, but it takes forms and some time to see it through. Challenging a criminal record is free. The first thing a person wishing to correct a record must do is submit an access and review request to the Illinois State Police. This involves taking a set of fingerprints and other identifiers on an Access and Review fingerprint card within 30 days of the request.
After reviewing the criminal record on file, the person initiating the correction must request a record challenge form from the ISP. There are rules and legal reasons that qualify a person to correct their criminal record. Those seeking to clear something from their record must gather all their documents to include as much information on the challenge form as possible related to the case.
Those are filled out and turned into the ISP. The ISP will turn over the fingerprint card and the record challenge form to the local police department within 60 days. The local police may contact those wishing to remove false information directly but most receive a written decision from the ISP. If the request is denied, those challenging their criminal records would need to hire an attorney to appeal.
How long are Illinois criminal records kept on file?
Criminal convictions are on a person’s record forever in Illinois unless they are expunged. Those instances where a person is arrested and charged but was never convicted are eligible to be sealed or expunged.