URBANA — Registration is now open for the third annual expungement and record-sealing summit in Champaign County.
The Oct. 6 summit at Stone Creek Church in Urbana gives people a chance to clear their criminal record, with volunteer lawyers on hand and fees waived.
"Expungement and record-sealing petitions are one of the remedies available to people that can help improve their chances of employment and housing," said Champaign County Circuit Clerk Katie Blakeman. "Those sorts of things are designed to be done without the aid of an attorney, but most people find that it's incredibly complicated and difficult."
In part because of how complicated the process is, registration for this year's event began much earlier — last week on champaigncircuitclerk.org. It runs through July 27.
"It's much earlier because we want to allow enough time for people to get fingerprinted at a local agency," Blakeman said.
Last year's event helped some 300 people with more than 700 cases.
After registering, participants will be contacted by the circuit clerk's office to set up a free fingerprinting appointment, which allows the clerk's office to receive criminal transcripts from the state police.
In the past, Blakeman said when expungement and record-sealing petitions have been declined, it's usually because of unpaid fines and fees.
To help with that, her office is sponsoring an amnesty week from Sept. 10-14, which allows people to pay fines and fees without having to pay collection and late fees.
"In most cases, that's about 30 percent" of the total cost, Blakeman said. "We found that to be a very successful event, so we're hosting one again this year."
Several local groups are contributing to the summit.
The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District is providing free bus rides to Stone Creek Church, 2502 S. Race St., and the Urbana Park District is providing free child care.
Volunteer lawyers from Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, Spiros Law and Cabrini Green Legal Aid will review cases and help participants through the process, and petitions will be filed on-site for free the day of the summit.
"Our chief judge, Rich Broch, signed an administrative order waiving filing fees for petitions filed that day," Blakeman said.
State Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, and state Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, are also sponsoring the summit, which will include a "Know Your Rights" presentation and a community-resource fair.
After a petition for expungement or record sealing is filed, it may be granted by a judge if there's no objection. If there is, a hearing will be scheduled.
"We're really just so grateful for the level of community support," Blakeman said. "It's a wonderful, collaborative event."
—July 23: Agency fingerprinting begins
— July 27: Registration closes'
— Aug. 10: Fingerprinting closes
— Sept. 10-14: Amnesty Week
— Sept. 22: Vermilion County summit
— Oct. 6: Expungement summit