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Office of the
Illinois Attorney General
Kwame Raoul

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Conviction Integrity Unit

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Conviction Integrity Unit

The Attorney General's Office Addresses Questions of Wrongful Convictions

The Office of the Illinois Attorney General works with every part of Illinois’ criminal justice system to ensure that victims’ rights are preserved, the innocent are protected, and the guilty are convicted and punished. However, wrongful convictions destroy lives. Furthermore, such errors diminish faith in the criminal justice system and put victims and public safety at risk by allowing true perpetrators to escape punishment.

To pursue the truth and protect the innocent, Attorney General Raoul established the Illinois Attorney General’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) to investigate claims of actual innocence for forcible felony cases where:

  1. New, credible evidence of innocence has been discovered or;
  2. Where new technologies now exist to test or retest remaining evidence.

The Conviction Integrity Unit conducts strategically collaborative, good-faith case reviews to:

  • Ensure the integrity of challenged convictions;
  • Remedy wrongful convictions;
  • Correct uncovered injustices;

When the CIU review concludes actual innocence — where the person convicted did not commit the crime — the unit will seek to identify the true perpetrator of the underlying crime(s).

When is a case eligible for review?

  1. The applicant must have been convicted by an Illinois state court; the applicant’s case cannot be a federal case.
  2. The conviction must have been for a forcible felony; misdemeanors and infractions will NOT be reviewed.
  3. The applicant must make a claim of actual innocence (i.e., the applicant did not commit or participate in the crime of which she or he was convicted).
  4. The applicant MUST be incarcerated, currently serving time on the sentence imposed for the asserted claim of actual innocence.
  5. There is newly discovered evidence that was NOT presented during trial NOR during post-conviction appeals (e.g., direct appeal, habeas corpus, etc.), or was not tested at trial.
  6. The new evidence must be credible, verifiable, and create a substantial probability of exoneration.
  7. There cannot be any pending habeas corpus petitions, appeals, or litigation of any kind.

The Conviction Integrity Unit has established guidelines and processes to review eligible cases. More details about the case review criteria and the guiding principles are outlined in the Conviction Integrity Unit Charter.

Starting a Case Review by the Attorney General's Conviction Integrity Unit

Incarcerated individuals or their legal counsel who wish to start a case review must first complete a pre-screening questionnaire. If the case meets the case review criteria, the requestor will receive instructions on how to proceed with the application.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the Illinois Attorney General’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) do?

The CIU investigates claims of actual innocence to determine whether new, credible evidence and information substantially proves that the applicant was not the person who committed the offense of which s/he was convicted. If the CIU determines that a convicted person should be exonerated, it makes that recommendation to the Illinois Attorney General.

NOTE: The Illinois Attorney General makes all final decisions about whether a convicted person should, in fact, be exonerated.

Who may petition the CIU for post-conviction review?

Although specific eligibility requirements must be met (see below), generally, any person incarcerated in an Illinois prison, who was convicted as an adult of a forcible felony by an Illinois state court, OR his/her attorney, may seek review.

NOTE: “Forcible felony” means any felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual that results in great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement, such as first or second-degree murder, criminal sexual assault, robbery, arson, kidnapping, or aggravated battery. (See 720 ILCS 5/2-8 for a complete definition)

What are the CIU’s eligibility requirements?

In general, the claim must meet two essential criteria. First, the applicant must assert “actual innocence,” which means that s/he had NO criminal responsibility in the offense of which s/he was convicted. Second, the claim of actual innocence must be based on new, credible evidence, that is, evidence NOT considered by the trier of fact during the proceedings that led to the conviction. If the evidence submitted in support of a claim of actual innocence was previously considered and rejected by a court at trial or on direct appeal, the CIU does not investigate.

NOTE: The sole exception to the requirement for these criteria would be based on a showing that the investigative or fact-finding process that led to the conviction was so fundamentally flawed that the guilty verdict cannot reasonably be relied upon as accurate. Such decisions are left to the discretion of the CIU.

For specific eligibility requirements, please click on the link below.

Are there any costs for submitting an application or associated with evidence collection/analysis?

No costs are associated with the CIU’s post-conviction review process.

Is the CIU part of the post-conviction process provided under Illinois law?

No. There are important differences between a review by the CIU and a post-conviction petition, although both exist to prevent an unjust result.

The Illinois Post-Conviction Act (725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq.) allows convicted defendants to show that their conviction was obtained in violation of a constitutional right, such as the right to be free from unlawful searches (the Fourth Amendment), the right to remain silent when questioned by police (the Fifth Amendment), or the right to a competent lawyer (the Sixth Amendment).

The CIU was not created by statute, its investigations are not part of any court action and therefore it is not governed by court rules of procedure. The CIU functions as an arm of the Illinois Attorney General’s authority (as the chief legal officer of the state).

Due to limited resources, before the CIU acts, it determines whether a convicted person is also litigating a petition for relief under the Post-Conviction Act. If a convicted person has any pending post-conviction actions or time remaining in which to file such actions, the CIU does NOT investigate his/her claim of actual innocence. The CIU proceeds only after ALL post-conviction actions have been exhausted.