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Criminal Law Resources

Know Your Rights During a Police Encounter

Think carefully about your words, movement, body language, and emotions. Keep your hands where the police can see them. Do not run or resist, even if you believe you are innocent. Do not touch any police officer, as this alone may be grounds for arrest. Do not demand an officer's badge number, or make any other statements that are likely to escalate the situation.

You have the right to remain silent and to talk to a lawyer before you talk to the police. If you are concerned that you may be arrested, avoid offering any explanations of the incident until you have had an opportunity to speak with a lawyer. Do not get into an argument with the police. Do not bad-mouth a police officer or attempt to run away. Remember - anything you say or do can be used against you, but your choice to remain silent cannot.

You are never legally required to consent to any search of yourself, your car or your house. Consenting to a search may affect your rights later in court. If the police say they have a search warrant, politely ask to see it. If the warrant specifies a certain person to be searched, the police can search only that person, unless they have independent probable cause to search other persons who happen to be present at the scene. If the warrant specifies a certain place to be searched, the police can search only that place, and for only the property or items that the warrant likewise describes.

If you are arrested, it is generally advisable to ask to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Avoid making any statements about the incident leading up to the arrest, or any decisions about the criminal charges made against you, before you speak with an attorney.

Everyone deserves to be treated courteously and respectfully. If you feel that your rights have been violated, avoid any attempts to deal with the situation at the scene. Remain calm and compliant. Plan to speak to an attorney afterwards, and file a complaint with the police department's Internal Affairs office or a Civilian Complaint Board, if you and your attorney determine that would be appropriate.


Common Criminal Offenses Involving Drugs and Alcohol

Remember that, in addition to criminal penalties, these offenses may also result in discipline under DePaul's Code of Student Responsibility.

Possession: Carrying less than 10 grams of marijuana is a civil offense, comparable to a parking ticket. If you have more than 10 grams, the penalty ranges from a misdemeanor (1 year jail time and max fine $2,500) to a felony with 1-4 years in prison as a mandatory minimum sentence (depending on the amount of marijuana and number of offenses) and a fine of $25,000.

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia: If you are found with less than 10 grams of marijuana along with any drug paraphernalia (pipes, bongs, grinders, or even ziploc bags), this is also a civil offense. But, possession of paraphernalia with more than 10 grams is a misdemeanor (1 year jail time and max fine $2,500). Selling paraphernalia is a felony with 1-3 years in prison as a mandatory minimum sentence, depending on who you are selling to. 

Delivery: The penalties for delivering marijuana range from a misdemeanor, for less than 10 grams, up to a felony with 1-6 years in prison as a mandatory minimum sentence. The severity of the sanctions depend on the amount of marijuana being delivered. In addition, the court may impose a fine of up to $200,000, again depending on the amount in question.  

If you are less than 21 years old and are caught in possession or consuming alcohol "in any public place or in any place open to the public", you can be found guilty of a Class A misdemeanor (1 year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500). Punishment can also include community service, counseling, and court supervision.

Under Illinois state law, it is illegal to drive on a road or highway with an unsealed/broken sealed alcoholic beverage in the vehicle. The penalty for having an open container is typically a fine up to $1,000, with increased penalties for recurring offenses. If you are underage and driving with an open container, you may be subject to a Zero Tolerance Law that can cost you your license even for a first offense. The only exception to the law prohibiting open containers pertains to limousines, chartered buses, and motor homes, in which it is legal for open containers to be present in the separate passenger area of the vehicle. It is always illegal for the driver to have access to an open container.

Certain local ordinances in Illinois state that an individual cannot possess open alcoholic beverages in specific areas, even if you are not in a vehicle. For example, in the City of Chicago, it is illegaly to possess an open container on any public way (with exceptions for street cafes and Navy Pier).

Being intoxicated in public is technically legal under Illinois state law. However, you may be charged with other offenses if a police officer is present, such as disorderly conduct or assault.

If you decide to drink and drive, the repercussions can be severe. If a police officer pulls you over and finds your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is .08 or higher, you are under the influence of marijuana or another drug, or the officer believes you are an unsafe driver, you could face penalties of a revoked license, suspended registration for your car, minimum fines of $500, and mandatory 100 hours of community service. You can also be charged with a felony if you are transporting a child under the age of 16, cause a crash, or you have multiple DUI convictions.

If you are in possession of a fake or falsified ID, you can face serious penalties ranging from $500 fines, 50 hours community service, and jail time to a felony conviction. For more information, check out our Fake ID pamphlet . 

Criminal Records - Sealing and Expungement

Learn how having a criminal record may affect you in the long term, and what you can do about it.

Employment: Most employers run background checks and decide based on the results whether or not to hire someone. Sensitive employers will have stricter rules about who they hire, but some employers as a rule might ignore applicants who have criminal records

Education: Colleges are starting to use background checks as a way to rule out candidates. Currently, more than 60% of colleges consider a criminal record when making admissions decisions. Be sure to answer all college application questions truthfully.

Financial Aid: Students with criminal convictions might face barriers to receiving federal financial aid. If your offense involved drug or sexual abuse, your eligibility for federal financial aid is in jeopardy. 

Housing: As a general rule, landlords cannot refuse to rent or sell properties to those with criminal records. They can have specific policies that seek to protect the other tenants, though. This would include denying housing to those with violent criminal backgrounds. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development has stated that making broad decisions not to do business with those who have criminal records is discriminatory. 

Immigration Status: It is important to know how a criminal conviction will affect your immigration status. If you are convicted of an aggravated felony (murder, rape, trafficking of drugs or firearms, etc.), you will be deported and denied re-entry. Additionally, some courts will find repeat convictions (such as multiple DUIs), possession charges, and domestic violence worthy of deporting you. If your offense was not aggravated and did not involve drugs or domestic violence, you might be able to obtain a hardship waiver 

Employment: The military & civil service can both see expunged and un-expunged juvenile records. The military's honest disclosure allows you to be upfront about your juvenile record and not be penalized. The Youth Opportunity and Fairness Act (YOFA) is a new law that dictates juvenile adjudications are not equivalent to criminal convictions. This means that Civil Service employers cannot discriminate against those with juvenile records. Additionally, if you have a juvenile record you will be barred from obtaining a Firearm Owners Identification card (FOID) until the records are expunged.

Education: While high schools have the right to access arrests and records, colleges and institutes of higher learning do not have access to that information via the Juvenile Court Act. Be sure to answer college application questions thoroughly so as not to be untruthful and to check if your high school sends discipline records with your transcript. 

Financial Aid: Juvenile adjudications do not impact your federal financial aid eligibility.

Housing: Private landlords and Public Housing Authorities cannot see your juvenile records. But, if you have subsidized housing that requires you to report you or your household's arrests, subsequent juvenile adjudications can jeopardize your housing.

Immigration: The Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) can see juvenile records, even if they are expunged. Seek out legal advice if you are undocumented or your immigration status is at risk due to an arrest. 

  1. Get your rap sheet from the local law enforcement, relative to where you were arrested. If in Chicago, you can go to the Chicago Police Department Headquarters at 3510 S. Michigan Ave. You must make the request in person and pay a fee (currently $16).
  2. Complete the appropriate forms, available here.
  3. File your petition in a Circuit Court in the district you were arrested (Cook County locations found here).
  4. There is a fee involved in filing your petition, a fee waiver is available, if you qualify.
  5. You might have to go to court to have a judge decide whether to seal or expunge your records.
  6. You will receive an answer on the status of your record(s) either in court or via mail.
  7. The police and prosecutors then have 60 days to expunge or seal your records. The police should send a letter when they have completed the process.

Certain juvenile records are eligible for automatic expungement:

  • Arrests not involving court action are eligible if 1 year has passed since the arrest, no case was filed, and no additional arrest or case was filed in the previous 6 months.
  • Arrests involving court action are eligible if the case was dismissed, the defendant was found not guilty, or the defendant completed court supervision; and the case was a Class B/C misdemeanor or petty business offense, or a Class A misdemeanor or felony and was not violent in nature; and there are no subsequent convictions or cases pending.

If your case does not qualify for automatic expungement, you can petition for it to be expunged:

  • You should be eligible for expungement if the court took no action, your case was dismissed, you were found not guilty, you completed your supervision, or your offense was a Class B/C misdemeanor or petty business offense. 
  • You may also petition for expungement if you were convicted of a Class A misdemeanor or felony and it's been two years since you completed your sentence (unless the offense is ineligible for expungement, such as first degree murder, or a sexual offense requiring registry).