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Criminal Records

Having a criminal record can potentially impact your eligibility for some benefits. Here is information on some of the benefits that may be negatively impacted by a criminal record.

Food Assistance – SNAP

You are still eligible for SNAP benefits if you have a felony on your criminal record. However, if you are in current violation of your probation or parole for any type of conviction or are a fugitive felon, you are ineligible for SNAP benefits. If you have previously been convicted of making a false statement or representation about your identity or residence which resulted in your receiving more than one SNAP issuance at a time, you will be ineligible for SNAP benefits for 10 years from the date of your conviction.

Illinois Cash Assistance

IDHS considers cash assistance to be Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Crisis Assistance, Aid for the Aged, Blind, and Disabled, and Refugee and Repatriate Assistance.

  • If you have been convicted of a drug-related felony that is not Class X or Class 1, you are ineligible for these programs for two years from the date of conviction. However, if this applies to you, but since your conviction you have successfully completed or are currently involved in a drug treatment or aftercare program, you may be eligible to receive benefits.
  • If you have been convicted of a Class X or Class 1 felony (or other similar federal offense) involving the possession, use, or distribution of a controlled substance, you are ineligible.
  • If you are considered a fugitive felon or a probation/parole violator, you are ineligible.
  • If you have previously been convicted of misrepresenting an address in two or more states to receive benefits for these programs, you will be ineligible to receive these benefits for 10 years from the date of your conviction.

Housing Choice Vouchers & Public Housing

A criminal record can be a barrier to obtaining housing, depending on the nature of the crime and local regulations. You will not be eligible for housing assistance if you or a member of your household:

  • have been evicted from federally assisted housing within the past three years because of drug related criminal activity, unless you have participated in drug rehabilitation or the circumstances leading to the eviction no longer exist. For example, the person who was engaged in the drug activity is no longer a part of the household.
  • are subject to a lifetime sex offender registration requirement in any state;
  • have been convicted of manufacturing or producing methamphetamine on the premises of federally assisted housing;
  • are currently engaging in illegal drug use; and
  • are currently abusing alcohol in a manner that interferes with the health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of other residents.

You may be denied housing assistance if you or a member of your household:

  • have engaged in any drug-related criminal activity;
  • have engaged in any violent criminal activity;
  • have engaged in any other criminal activity that would threaten the health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of other residents, the owner, or PHA personnel.

If these apply to you, you may have an opportunity to present evidence of why you should still be admitted to housing, such as participation in drug treatment or use of rehabilitation, counseling, or social services.

For more information about your housing options if you have a criminal record, contact:

Tax Benefits

Depending on the type of conviction, you may be ineligible for certain tax benefits. See the Tax Benefits section for details.

Unemployment Insurance (UI)

A criminal record in and of itself will not disqualify you from receiving UI benefits. You will be ineligible, however, following any dismissal that was due to the commission of a felony or theft in connection with your position of employment. You must also have admitted your role in the commission of the crime. It is possible to become eligible again once you are re-employed and have additional earnings.

What options are there for alleviating effects of criminal records?

For individuals with a criminal record in Illinois, it can be difficult to obtain employment or access certain resources related to education. There are some options, however, for those who would like to minimize the negative effects of a record. Depending on the type of conviction and time passed since conviction, there are opportunities for individuals to either remove criminal records from public view or, if the offense on record is a non-conviction, to expunge the record completely.

Record Sealing

Record Sealing is a process of submitting paperwork to the court (where your case took place) and asking the court to limit who can look at old arrests or convictions to law enforcement and other entities given the authority by law. It is important to note that convictions can only be sealed, not expunged; expungement is only available for people with no convictions on their record. All arrests that do not result in convictions are eligible for sealing. The convictions eligible for sealing include:

  • Eligible Misdemeanors: Most non-violent misdemeanors, such as criminal trespassing, criminal damage to property, disorderly conduct, or misdemeanor retail theft. Assault, aggravated assault, battery and reckless conduct (DUI and domestic battery convictions are not eligible for sealing).
  • Eligible Felonies: deceptive practices, forgery, possession of burglary tools, possession of cannabis, possession of controlled substances, possession with intent to deliver, prostitution, retail theft, and theft.

Certificates of Good Conduct & Healthcare Waivers

Certain industries, such as healthcare and education, are legally allowed to deny an individual employment or license in the field if his or her criminal record contains certain offenses. Certificates of Good Conduct, Certificates of Relief from Disabilities, and Healthcare Waivers allow employers and licensing agencies to hire or license people with specific offenses on their record that they would never be able to hire or license otherwise. When applying for these certificates and waivers, a successful application will typically include the necessary forms, a criminal history report, a description of the circumstances surrounding the conviction, and other documents that can speak to your character and qualifications. These can include letters of support from teachers, employers and loved ones, an updated resume, a log of jobs you have applied for and been rejected from, and any training or certificates you’ve received.

The Certificate of Good Conduct Petition Form, Certificate of Relief from Disabilities, and the Healthcare Waiver Application can be found online.

Pardons from the Governor

Pardoning is a process of submitting paperwork to the Prisoner Review Board asking them to recommend that the Governor expunge your old conviction to limit who can see your conviction to law enforcement and other entities given the authority by law. To apply, see Illinois Prisoner Review Board for clemency guidelines and necessary forms.

Advisory Opinions

If you have a criminal record and are interested in a career or education path that requires a license, you can verify with the IL Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (ILDFPR) and request what is called a Non-Binding Advisory Opinion. In order to do so, you must mail in a detailed description of your particular record, explain the circumstances surrounding the conviction, and contribute any materials that demonstrate your good conduct since the offense occurred.  For more details, see the Non-Binding Advisory Opinion Instruction Sheet.

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