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Delaware Senate Democrats

Delaware Senate passes legislation to expand expungement eligibility

April 27, 2021

DOVER – The State Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed legislation to expand eligibility to the adult and juvenile expungement process for thousands of Delawareans who have been convicted of low-level criminal charges by making their opportunity for a second chance mandatory under state law.

Sponsored by Senator Darius Brown, Senate Bill 112 builds on his Adult Expungement Reform Act of 2019 by removing some of the remaining impediments preventing Delawareans from receiving a second chance after paying their debt to society.

“Two years ago, Gov. John Carney signed into law legislation I sponsored that successfully made our criminal justice system smarter and fairer for all Delawareans,” said Senator Brown, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“By working with restorative justice advocates and our law enforcement community, we have identified ways to help more people to obtain an expungement and, in doing so, open avenues for more Delawareans to obtain the education, housing and jobs currently denied to them due to the pervasive repercussions of their worst mistake,” he said. “Even with the passage of this legislation today, our work must continue until we’ve replaced barriers to opportunity with pathways to prosperity for all Delawareans.”

Under the Adult Expungement Reform Act of 2019, criminal records for certain isolated convictions must be expunged once a petition has been filed with the State Bureau of Identification. More complex cases can be expunged at the discretion of the courts.

SB 112 would expand the eligibility of mandatory expungements filed with SBI for certain additional convictions – regardless of a person’s prior or subsequent criminal record. These offenses include marijuana possession, drug paraphernalia possession, underage possession or consumption of alcohol, and cases involving multiple violation convictions. Currently, a person can only obtain an expungement for those convictions if it is their only conviction.

SB 112 also allows for certain, low-level felony convictions to be eligible for mandatory expungement.  Those convictions include drug possession convictions would be eligible after 5 years and specific non-violent felonies would be eligible after 10 years if a person has no prior or subsequent convictions.

Finally, SB 112 would make all cases eligible for an adult expungement also eligible for a juvenile expungement.

This is the third bill Sen. Brown has sponsored this year to improve and expand the adult expungement process in Delaware. Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 38, which proposes a number of technical revisions, passed the Senate in March is slated for final consideration in the House on April 29.

Senate Bill 111, also known as the Clean Slate Act, would make certain mandatory expungements automatic by removing the requirement for eligible Delawareans to apply through SBI. SB 111 was released by the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 21 and is currently pending before the Senate Finance Committee.

SB 112 now heads to the House for final consideration.