Previously, anyone convicted of an offense had to wait four years from the termination of their last sentence to seal the case (if it is an eligible offense). Under the new law, the defendant may petition to seal the records as soon as the sentence terminates if he or she obtained a new diploma, degree, certification, or GED during the time of their sentence, aftercare release, or mandatory supervised release. If the sealing petition is denied by the court, then the normal waiting periods apply for refiling in the future.
This is a good change as it will help those with a conviction more easily avoid the stigma of having a criminal record. The purpose of the waiting period is to allow enough time for the defendant to establish their rehabilitation. Clearly, someone who furthers their education is taking the steps to become a more productive member of society. I often encounter clients who are wary of completing their education program because of their criminal record. Why rack up more loans/tuition fees when it is unlikely that you will be hired in your field of study after a background check? Now, those people will be incentivized to further their education, which not only helps the individuals but also the economy of Illinois as well.