In the state of Illinois, there is a distinct difference between an expungement and a sealed criminal case. Generally speaking, an expungement is a court order that destroys all records of your arrest or conviction, while a sealed criminal case is when all records of the case are hidden from the public but remain accessible to law enforcement.

Expungement is usually granted in cases where the accused was found not guilty, was pardoned, or had their case dismissed. It essentially wipes the slate clean so the accused can start fresh. A sealed criminal case, on the other hand, is a court order that seals the records of the individual’s arrest or conviction, making them inaccessible to the public but available to law enforcement. This is typically done when the accused completes probation or a jail sentence, or when the individual was found guilty but received an alternative sentence, such as community service or a suspended sentence.

Essentially, expungement is a much more permanent solution and is generally used only in cases where the accused was found not guilty or pardoned. It completely erases the record of the arrest or conviction, whereas a sealed criminal case only prevents the public from accessing the records.