Senate Bill 37
150th General Assembly (Present)
Adopted in Lieu of original; takes status of original
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) after 5 years for some misdemeanors. 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 court process: Title 11 violent felonies; 16 Del C. § 1136; 31 Del C § 3913; any “felony conviction involving physical or sexual assault crimes” as defined in the Beau Biden Child Protection Act. A conviction for unlawful sexual contact third degree may not be expunged through the court-only process. 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. Any person who applies for relief under this section, must essentially be a first offender 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 also removes all limitations on the availability of court-ordered expungement after a pardon. 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. Implementation of the Act is delayed for 180 days to allow State agencies to prepare necessary procedures and forms. Finally, this Act is to be known as the Adult Expungement Reform Act.
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Takes effect upon being signed into law