Question Details:I was caught shoplifting. I got arrested but was not convicted because the witness did not show up for court. The case was dismissed. The amount taken was under $150, a misdemeanor. This was my first offense. I also paid the $500 fine that Target billed for the civil damages. Will this appear on any background checks? Credit checks? I am concerned that I will not pass employment background checks because of this, even though I was not convicted. Will this appear on any kind of checks?
Anyone arrested has a criminal record, even if the case is dismissed or there is a not guilty. That record remains public unless it is expunged or sealed. Illinois certain records can be removed from public access. Many types of cases can be removed from the public record. Removal never happens automatically. An eligible person must petition the court for records to be expunged or sealed. Without a petition the records are permanently public.
In evaluating a petition, a court must determine that the harm to a person with a record is greater than the harm to the public in taking away public access to the records. Once a judge has found in the petitioner’s favor, there are two types of orders possible: expunged or sealed.
One order is for the record to be expunged. This means the record is erased, as if it never existed. The arresting agency returns the records to the petitioner, including police reports, fingerprint cards, and booking photographs that were generated by the arrest. The circuit court clerk erases the records, both physical and electronic of the court activity. For all purposes the case never happened. Expungement means that from a legal standpoint the case did not happen.
The second possible judicial order is for a record to be sealed. When a record is sealed, only law enforcement may view it. Others, such as the general public, may not. The court file is no longer available for public viewing and is not listed in public searches, but members of law enforcement with an appropriate need can access the files. Your case would most likely qualify for expungement: retail theft and the case was nolle prosequi (dismissed by the State’s Attorney) if I understand you correctly. Seek legal help with all this. Good luck. It is a lesson learned.