URBANA — Champaign County Circuit Clerk Katie Blakeman is touting a milestone in her political career: a significant reduction in a filing fee.
Effective Tuesday, anyone wanting to file a petition seeking to have records expunged has to pay only $136, not the previous $237.
"We found a way to send those petitions via electronic delivery, as allowed by Supreme Court Rule 11, and (Sixth Circuit Chief) Judge Dan Flannell vacated the order requiring us to send them certified mail, which was the bulk of that cost," said Blakeman, who eight weeks ago started her third full year in office.
As circuit clerk, Blakeman is the keeper of all records for the circuit court judges.
She estimated that between 150 to 200 people file requests each year to expunge criminal records.
"At least a third of those are accompanied by a petition to waive court fees, so that meant the county was covering the cost of that certified mailing. This saves the county $4,000 to $5,000 a year," she said. "Sometimes technology ends up costing more. This is a great example of how we can save money for both the petitioner and the taxpayers."
When a person files a petition to expunge records of a qualifying arrest or conviction, copies of the petition have to be sent to the arresting agency, the municipal legal department, the sheriff, the state's attorney and the Illinois State Police Bureau of Identification. Once the petition is received, the agencies have a specified amount of time in which to file an objection, typically 60 days.
Blakeman said her office and those other players in the process have been working for several months to find the correct technology to allow for the electronic filing. She hailed those other agencies for working together to improve the process.
"It took us a while to find the right application that would allow us to send it securely, but also still produce a receipt that could be placed in the court file. The judges rely on that date that the agencies receive the petition to determine the time frame in which each agency has to file an objection," she said of the importance of the receipt.
Of the $136 cost to file, $60 is for the circuit clerk fee, $60 is for Illinois State Police fee, $6 is for mailing of the orders and $10 is for certifying the orders.
Previously, it cost between $214 and $236, depending on the arresting agency.
"The savings that will be seen by the petitioners and the county is extremely gratifying. I am especially pleased to be able to pass those savings on to the petitioner, particularly in the case of expungements, which may make the process of clearing a criminal record more attainable for those who most need it," she said.