Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 37
150th General Assembly (Present)
Becomes effective upon date of signature of the Governor or upon date specified
AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 4, TITLE 10, TITLE 11, AND TITLE 16 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING EXPUNGEMENT OF RECORDS OF ADULT ARREST AND CONVICTION.
In our modern society, a criminal record can limit a person’s opportunities and the quality of life they can achieve for themselves and their families for years, and even decades, after that person has completed the terms of the criminal sentence imposed. Even the existence of an arrest record with no conviction can limit job opportunities, housing, access to higher education, credit, and access to jobs that require professional licensing. The General Assembly has expanded the availability of expungement for juvenile adjudications of delinquency quite dramatically in recent years, in recognition that people can and do change and move beyond mistakes of their past. The intent of this Act is to extend that same recognition to some categories of adult records of arrest and conviction. At present, Delaware allows adults to petition to have a record expunged in only 2 circumstances: (1) for an arrest that did not lead to conviction and (2) after a pardon is granted – but for certain misdemeanor offenses only. Under this Act, a person may have a record expunged through a petition to the State Bureau of Identification (SBI) for (1) charges resolved in favor of the petitioner; (2) a record that includes violations only after the passage of 3 years; and (3) some misdemeanors after 5 years. Excluded from this SBI-only expungement process are convictions for any misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence, misdemeanor crimes where the victim is a child or a vulnerable adult, and unlawful sexual contact in the third degree. Allowing expungements for arrests without convictions and minor, isolated convictions through an application to the SBI will ease the burden on the courts and the Board of Pardons. This Act also provides that the court may grant a petition for expungement upon a showing of “manifest injustice” in the following situations: (1) 3 years have passed since the date of a single misdemeanor conviction; (2) a person has a single conviction in a felony case and 7 years have passed from the date of conviction or release from incarceration, whichever is later; (3) 7 years have passed since conviction or release from incarceration on misdemeanor domestic violence or misdemeanor conviction with child or vulnerable adult victim. A felony conviction for any of the following crimes is not eligible for expungement through this discretionary only expungement process, but may be expunged by a court following a pardon: Title 11 violent felonies; § 1136 of Title 16 (crimes against a resident of a long-term care facility; § 3913 of Title 31 (crimes against an adult who is impaired due to a physical or mental disability); and any “felony conviction involving physical or sexual assault crimes” as defined in the Beau Biden Child Protection Act. The Department of Justice will have an opportunity to state its position on the expungement petition to the court, and is empowered to seek input from any victim in the case. In all cases, the applicant for expungement must have no prior or subsequent convictions (other than traffic offenses, and underage alcohol or marijuana possession) in order to be eligible. A person is not allowed to apply for expungement under this process if an expungement has been granted within the last 10 years. Fines, fees, and restitution must be paid before an expungement may be granted; however, courts are empowered to waive outstanding fines or convert them to a civil judgement if they are unpaid for reasons other than willful noncompliance. Most Title 21 (traffic offenses), including DUI, are ineligible for expungement under this Act. However, traffic offenses (other than DUIs) will also not operate as a bar to the expungement of other charges. The Act strikes provisions in Title 10 relating to expungement of adult records in Family Court and consolidates them with the Title 11 expungement provisions. Conforming changes are made to cross-references in Title 4 and 16. This Substitute Bill differs from Senate Bill No. 37 as follows: (1) Adds Vehicular Assault in the Second Degree, Incest, Coercion, and Unlawfully Dealing with a Child to the list of crimes that can be expunged only if the individual first receives a pardon. That list previously included only Unlawful Sexual Contact in the Third Degree. (2) Makes clear that an expungement does not result in an individual’s automatic removal from the Child Protection Registry or the Adult Abuse Registry. (3) Adds certain misdemeanor property crimes to the list of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence that may be expunged only through the discretionary expungement process. (4) Permits the State Bureau of Identification to continue to promulgate regulations and impose fees for mandatory expungements under § 4373 of Title 11. This change also makes a technical correction to conform the existing law to the standards of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual. (5) Gives the Department of Justice additional time to answer a petition for discretionary expungement so that the Department has sufficient time to contact the victim of the crime. (6) Permits the victim of the crime to provide a written statement to the court when a defendant seeks a discretionary expungement and to testify at a hearing if one is held. (7) Requires, as part of the Victims’ Bill of Rights, that the Department of Justice to provide notice to the victim that the defendant is seeking a discretionary expungement; that the victim may provide a statement or testify, if a hearing is held; of the date, time, and place of any hearing; and of the court’s decision on the expungement petition. (8) Makes the following crimes not eligible for discretionary expungement following a pardon: Manslaughter, Murder in the Second Degree, Murder in the First Degree, Rape in the Second Degree, Rape in the First Degree, and Sexual Abuse of a Child by a Person in a Position of Trust, Authority, or Supervision in the First Degree. (9) Includes references to the First Offender Domestic Violence Diversion Program, under § 1024 of Title 10, so that expunged records related to this program may be accessed by criminal justice agencies to determine if an individual is eligible for the program. (10) Permits law-enforcement to access expunged records in any criminal investigation, not just a felony investigation. (11) Permits criminal justice agencies involved in the licensing of individuals to carry a concealed deadly weapon under § 1441 of Title 11 to access expunged records. (12) Makes clear that an expungement does not require the destruction of DNA taken under § 4713 of Title 29. (13) Allows the use of an expunged record in sentencing for a subsequent offense or on application for a pardon of a subsequent offense. (14) Makes clear that it is the State Bureau of Identification’s responsibility to inform federal law-enforcement of an order of expungement. (15) Makes clear that the 10 year waiting period for a subsequent expungement does not apply to an individual who is seeking a mandatory expungement because the case was terminated in the individual’s favor. (16) Removes language that would preclude an individual from obtaining an expungement if the individual has a prior or subsequent driving under the influence offense. (17) Makes an additional conforming change to remove § 1027 of Title 10, which is obsolete based on the change to § 1025 of Title 10. (18) Makes technical corrections, including to correct an internal reference and add an existing section heading to the Act for clarity. Finally, this Act is to be known as the Adult Expungement Reform Act and implementation of the Act is delayed for 180 days to allow State agencies to prepare necessary procedures and forms.
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