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Illinois Court Records

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Illinois Arrest Records

Illinois arrest records are documents created when law enforcement takes an individual into custody on suspicion of committing a crime. An arrest may occur after a police officer directly witnesses the individual commit said crime or there is reasonable proof to make them a person of interest in a criminal investigation case. In the case of the former, the police officer does not need an arrest warrant to take the individual into custody. However, where Illinois law enforcement relies on secondary or third-party evidence of a person's involvement in a crime, they would need a warrant to make an arrest. Whatever the case, the arrestee remains a suspect until they have been adjudged guilty in court.

Following an arrest, the officer takes the suspect to a facility, usually a local jail, where they will be detained pending their booking into the Illinois criminal justice system. Here, law enforcement creates the Illinois arrest record. It features information about the suspect, events leading up to the arrest, and the charges filed during the initial arraignment—when the suspect appears before a judge to enter a plea, and the court decides whether to grant bail pending trial. All the information generated during this process, from arrest to initial arraignment, will be part of the individual's arrest record. 

Illinois law enforcement agencies reported a total of 126,867 arrests in 2022, according to data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). Simple assault was the largest class of offenses, making up 20.16% of the arrests. Driving under the influence (DUI), drug abuse violations, and larceny-theft were the following major index crimes by recurrence, making up 11.30%, 9.87%, and 7.63%, respectively, of the total arrests reported. 

Are Arrest Records Public in Illinois?

Yes. Arrest records are public in Illinois per the Illinois Freedom of Information Act ((5 ILCS 140/2.15). Unless otherwise restricted by law or court order, adult arrest records are available to interested persons. This includes the general populace, persons involved in the arrest or interested in its sequelae, journalists, etc.

However, the provisions of the Act are not absolute. Some arrest records are typically exempted from public access, particularly if they contain information that could jeopardize the safety or privacy of an individual (5 ILCS 140/7). Similarly, the provision under the Illinois FOIA does not apply to juvenile arrest records, that is, records of persons under the age of the majority, 18 years. In either case, only the subject, public servants authorized by their office, or third parties authorized by a court order may obtain restricted arrest records. 

Nevertheless, if releasing an arrest record will compromise the integrity of an active police investigation or criminal justice proceedings, the law authorizes the custodian to suspend access temporarily. However, in cases where the custodian is compelled to release such a record, an administrative staff will review the entire record and redact confidential details. 

What is Included in Illinois Arrest Records?

Per Sec. 2.15(a) of the Illinois FOIA, the following information must be in an arrest record:

  • Personally identifying information about the suspect, including full name, aliases, age, and address;
  • Photograph;
  • Details of the charges relating to the arrest;
  • The arrest location and time;
  • The name of the investigating or arresting law enforcement agency;
  • The suspect's incarceration or custody status;
  • Booking details, including the time and date when the individual was received into, discharged from, or transferred from the arresting agency's custody. 

Find Public Arrest Records in Illinois

Finding arrest records in Illinois involves contacting the record custodian to request a copy of the arrest record or using the agency's online resources. While the process for obtaining these records typically varies with the custodian agency, the following steps are similar across board:

  • Determine the record custodian.
  • Contact the record custodian.
  • Submit a record request.
  • Pay the applicable fees.  

Determine the record custodian: 

The arresting agency is usually the record custodian and contact person for publicly available arrest records. This is often the Sheriff's Office or the municipal police department. However, it may also be the jail or prison facility where the suspect was processed or booked into the criminal justice system. This is usually the case when the arresting agency is the state police department or a federal law enforcement agency. 

Contact the record custodian: 

Upon identifying the record custodian, the requestor must contact the agency to inquire about its public records request procedure. Usually, this information is available on the agency's official website, so it is hardly necessary to call the agency unless the inquirer needs specific information. Generally, record custodians provide requestors with three options:

  • Searching an online arrest log.
  • Sending a mail request.
  • Visiting the office in person to conduct the search. 

Submit the record request: 

Online record searches are usually processed immediately, and the information sought will be available within seconds. However, for mail-in requests, the individual must write a letter describing the record sought and provide sufficient details to facilitate a record search. Next, the requestor must enclose the application packet (including the letter, payment for applicable fees, and a self-addressed envelope) in a separate envelope and mail it to the record custodian's address. 

Meanwhile, for in-person record searches, the requestor must schedule an appointment with the record custodian—some custodians support walk-ins without a prior appointment—and visit the office. There, they must provide the necessary details to facilitate a search for the arrest record sought and pay the applicable administrative fees (usually copying fees if the requestor wants physical copies of the arrest record. 

Obtaining Restricted Arrest Records in Illinois

In Illinois, restricted arrest records usually contain sensitive information, so the custodian cannot publish the record on a public platform or provide the record to unauthorized persons. To obtain restricted arrest records, an individual must be legally authorized or permitted by a court order. 

The former situation typically applies to the record subject and specific public officials. The latter applies to third parties. For this class of requestors, the first step in obtaining a restricted arrest record is petitioning a court of competent jurisdiction. This is usually the Circuit Court in the jurisdiction where the arrest happened. The Circuit Court Clerk's Office will provide the necessary information and steps the petitioner must follow. Otherwise, the requestor may seek professional legal services. 

In petitions for access to restricted records, the court considers several factors, particularly whether the requestor's need to access that record outweighs the protection of confidentiality. If the petition is successful, the court will issue an order notifying the record custodian of its decision and the terms of granting access to the petitioner. On their part, the requestor must attach a copy of the order to the record request application packet. 

Note, however, that for very sensitive details, the court may deny the petition outright or grant limited access to the record. In the latter, the record custodian will redact the sensitive content of the documents before providing the requestor with the sought record. 

How to Lookup Arrest Records Online in Illinois

Illinois public arrest records are available on online databases maintained by local and state law enforcement agencies. To find an arrest record from an online repository maintained by the County Sheriff, visit the agency's official website and find the link titled Jail Roster or arrest log. Sometimes, this link will be visible in a side menu, navigation bar, or shortcuts at the bottom of the page. For example, the Cook County Sheriff's Office maintains an individual in custody log, and the link can be found at the bottom of the website page under "Jail Information."

Similarly, the arrest record custodian is the Illinois Department of Corrections for persons arrested by a federal or state law enforcement agency. The agency maintains an online portal, Individuals in Custody, where the public may find the arrest records of persons in a state facility. The search method for both official online sources of arrest records is the same: the searcher must provide the arrestee's last and first name to facilitate a search. Alternatively, they may use a unique identification number if known. Unlike a name-based search, using an inmate ID is more efficient because it makes the search more streamlined. 

Inquirers may also obtain arrest records from third-party online sources. These independent aggregator websites can be helpful when the searcher does not know the specific custodian for the arrest record they seek. However, because these service providers are associated with the government, there is no guarantee of the accuracy or completeness of the records obtained. Hence, third-party sources are useful for beginning an online search for an arrest record. If any of the aforementioned options fail, consider contacting the local authorities in the jurisdiction where the arrest occurred. 

How Long Do Arrests Stay on Your Record in Illinois?

In Illinois, arrests typically stay on record permanently unless the subject files for an expungement (erasing) or sealing (hiding). Generally, arrests that can be removed, sealed or expunged include those that did not result in a conviction or when the prosecution did not file charges. Nevertheless, if an arrest resulted in a conviction but the sentence was later reversed, or the individual received a pardon, the record may be eligible for an expungement or sealing. 

Expunge an Arrest Record in Illinois

The Illinois judiciary provides a systematic guide for applying for an expungement or sealing of arrest/criminal records in Illinois. While it is possible to apply for an expungement or sealing pro se, petitioners are advised to seek legal guidance. That said, the process of applying for an arrest record expungement in Illinois involves: 

  • Obtaining copies of the criminal record (which contains the arrests)
  • Reviewing the criminal record for arrests that are eligible for sealing or expungement
  • Complete the necessary court forms
  • File the completed form at the Circuit Court
  • Attend the court date if required. 

Obtaining copies of one's criminal record is important because it details the chronological history of all arrests and prosecutions. This record is available through the Illinois State Police, although it can be obtained from the local law enforcement agency. 

Upon obtaining the criminal record, review it for the arrests listed and check for the cases eligible for sealing or expungement. The expungement instruction sheet contains a list of offences that are eligible for sealing and expungement and the requirements the petitioner must meet to qualify. After reviewing the criminal record, the next step is filling out the request to expunge/seal criminal records form. The instruction sheet contains guidelines for completing this form. 

Then, the individual must file the completed form with the Circuit Court Clerk's Office. Generally, the court must be located in the jurisdiction where the arrest happened. Petitioners with several arrests in different counties must complete and apply to each county. Most courts support e-filing, mail, and in-person filing of the request form. Often, courts schedule hearings before deciding on the expungement/sealing request. 

If the petition is successful, the court will send a copy of the expungement order to every law enforcement agency listed as custodian of the arrest record. The agency will then process the expungement or sealing within 60 days. Persons whose expungement request is denied will have the option to appeal the ruling. These individuals must file a notice of appeal within 30 days. 

How Do I Find Recent Arrests in Illinois?

Local law enforcement agencies typically publish a log of recent arrests on their websites. Interested persons may visit the Sheriff's Office, police department, or county jail website to find records relating to recent arrests. Likewise, the Department of Corrections maintains a record of recent arrests for offenders apprehended by state or federal law enforcement agencies and detained in a state correctional facility. This information is also available online on the Department of Corrections website. 

Are Illinois Arrest Records Free?

Typically, yes. Illinois arrest records accessed from the record custodian's website are generally free to the public. This includes arrest records obtained from the local sheriff's office, police department, county jail, or Department of Corrections website. However, if an individual chooses to visit the record custodian's office in person or sends a mail request to obtain arrest records, they may incur service fees (5 ILCS 140/6). These fees cover the cost of duplicating the records. 

Nevertheless, in such cases, obtaining an arrest record for free is possible by requesting a fee waiver from the record custodian. To get a fee waiver, contact the agency in charge of the record sought. Note, however, that record custodians review fee waiver requests on a case-by-case basis. Merely requesting a waiver does not guarantee free access. The requestor must demonstrate a need or an inability to pay for the sought record without aid.

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Illinois Arrest Records