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House votes to expunge minors' arrests if no convictions result

SPRINGFIELD — The House passed a bill Wednesday that would strike the arrest records of kids who haven’t been convicted of a crime.

The measure passed 74-40 in the House and goes to the Senate.

“Having a single juvenile arrest can impact the ability of youth to successfully compete for education, scholarships, employment and service opportunities later in life,” said the bill’s main sponsor Rep. Arthur Turner, D-Chicago.

Senate Bill 978 would require the Illinois State Police to wipe clean the arrest record each year for those under the age of 18, so long as they weren’t convicted of a crime. However, this does not apply to youth arrested for serious felonies or for sexual crimes.

Turner said the current process to expunge a person’s arrest record is “cumbersome” in that it takes time, money and is subject to all sorts of red tape. Turner said the fact that his bill automatically wipes these records for free will give young people a “fresh start” as they apply for a job or for college.

But Dennis Reboletti, R-Elmhurst, wasn’t comfortable with the automatic nature of cleaning the books. He said the state’s attorney’s office should be allowed to object to the expungement, in case there’s an ongoing investigation, as it can currently.

“This is a pretty big change in the way that we run juvenile expungement,” Reboletti said. “I generally support your measure but I have some issues leader with the fact that there is no objection process.”

But Tom Cross, R-Oswego, who said he worked as a prosecutor for nine years, said he couldn’t fault the bill.

“I’ve been very, very strong on anti-crime legislation, but I don’t see a problem with this bill,” Cross said. “Where there’s an arrest but not a charge, why wouldn’t we allow for an expungement? I think this makes a lot of sense.”

Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, said it wasn’t fair to keep un-charged arrests on a record because they imply people are criminals.

“I thought there was due process in the Constitution,” Flowers said. “I thought you were innocent until proven guilty, not guilty until proven innocent. And just because you are arrested, what does that mean? So therefore, an arrest should not be something that was stigmatized of me because anybody could accuse me of anything and I could be arrested for anything.”