Records of Municipal Ordinance Violations to be Kept Confidential & Automatic Expungement of Law Enforcement Records
Effective January 1, 2018, two important changes were made to the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (705 ILCS 405/1-1 et seq.) (the “Act”) concerning records of minors who are investigated, arrested or taken into custody prior to the minor’s 18th birthday.
Under prior law, the Act only applied to the courts and law enforcement agencies (which include municipal police departments), rather than to units of local government themselves.
However, within the recent changes to the Act, municipalities are now required to keep confidential all records of municipal ordinance violations that are maintained by the municipality and which relate to a minor who has been investigated, arrested or taken into custody prior to the minor’s 18th birthday. Except in certain limited situations, such ordinance violation records are not subject to disclosure, inspection, or copying.
This change to the Act will likely not have a significant impact upon those municipalities which utilize a law enforcement agency for the issuance of ordinance citations because records that are maintained by law enforcement agencies were previously subject to the Act’s confidentiality and disclosure rules. However, those municipalities which do not utilize a law enforcement agency for the issuance of ordinance citations (i.e. code enforcement officers or marshals) are now subject to these rules.
Specifically, municipalities are now prohibited from disclosing to the general public any records pertaining to an ordinance violation by a minor. In addition, municipalities are only authorized to allow the inspection and copying of a minor’s ordinance violation record(s) in very limited circumstances, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Any local, State, or federal law enforcement officer when necessary for the discharge of their official duties;
- Prosecutors, probation officers, social workers, and other individuals assigned by the court and in connection with criminal proceedings;
- Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS); and
- Appropriate school officials only if there is an imminent threat of physical harm to students, school personnel, or others present in the school or on school grounds.
Interestingly, the Act does not create an exception for the disclosure, inspection or copying of records by the subject minor, the minor’s parents or guardians, or an authorized agent. While the Act may not explicitly authorize such action, it may nevertheless be required under the law. Municipalities should consult with counsel prior to any disclosure, inspection or copying of records which relate to a minor.
The second change, while only impacting law enforcement agencies, imposes a rather large burden upon local law enforcement agencies and municipal police departments. The Act now requires all law enforcement agencies to expunge or permanently destroy certain records that are maintained by the law enforcement agency pertaining to minors on an annual basis. These records, which are called “law enforcement records”, include, but are not limited to, records of arrest, station adjustment, fingerprints, probation adjustments, the issuance of a notice to appear, and any other records or documents relating to a minor suspected of committing an offense or evidence of interaction with law enforcement (i.e. ordinance violations).
This new requirement mandates that, on or before January 1st of each year, all law enforcement agencies within the State of Illinois automatically expunge all law enforcement records, except records for a serious felony offense, relating to events occurring before an individual’s 18th birthday. However, such law enforcement records must meet the following requirements in order to qualify for automatic expungement:
- One year or more must have passed since the date of arrest or the documented law enforcement interaction;
- No petition for delinquency or criminal charges has been filed relating to the arrest of documented law enforcement interaction; and
- Six (6) months must have passed without an additional or subsequent arrest or filing of a petition for delinquency or criminal charges.
Local law enforcement agencies and municipal police departments should work with counsel and the State’s Attorney’s Office to ensure that records qualify for expungement prior to their destruction.
Municipalities are also reminded that expunged juvenile records may not be considered in employment matters. The Act requires applications for employment, including employment with a public body, to contain a statement that the applicant is not obligated to disclose expunged records relating to any act(s) that was committed while the applicant was a minor.