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Information by State » Delaware expungement

In June 2011, the Delaware legislature unanimously passed House Bill 177 which models the juvenile expungement process after the adult expungement process. The bill, which was sponsored by Senator Michael A. Barbieri (D-Newark) is set to become effective January 1, 2012 and allows juveniles to file for a petition to expunge their criminal records when their criminal cases are acquitted, dismissed, or not prosecuted. Senator Barbieri encouraged the bill and stated that “children who are charged with minor crimes that are dismissed or dropped should not have these charges following them around for the rest of their lives. The courts have determined that the cases don’t have merit, but despite their innocence, juveniles’ ability to go t school, get a job and live a normal life are impacted by these charges.”

In fact, according to a Delaware House of Representatives press release summarizing the bill, the family court must grant an expungement request in cases where: 1) a juvenile was charged with a misdemeanor and the charges were dismissed, not prosecuted or the child was acquitted and the child has no prior or subsequent adjudications/convictions and no charges pending; 2) a juvenile was charged with felony offense that was resolved via dismissal, non-prosecution or acquittal and the child has no prior or subsequent adjudications/convictions and more than one year has passed since the case was resolved; 3) a juvenile has one adjudication of delinquency for any offense other than a violent felony or sex offense, and the child has no subsequent or prior adjudications/convictions, and three years have passed since the adjudication was entered. Just as the Delaware adult expungement laws, the expunged records will still be available to law enforcement if the person is seeking employment with the agency or if the agency requires the records for purposes of investigating criminal activity.

Under Delaware law, criminal records that are expunged do not completely “disappear;” instead records that are sealed and are supposed to be destroyed or erased from databases. However, a sealed copy of those records are kept at the office of the Suervisor of the State Bureau of Identification in case it needs to be viewed by either the court, or “law enforcement officers acting in the lawful performance of their duties. . . or for the purpose of an employment application as an employee of a law enforcement agency.” 11 Del. C. §4374.

Circumstances eligible for an expungement under the Delaware law are: 1) when persons are found non-guilty of a crime; 2) when the state drops charges; 3) when the Court dismisses the case. A person may petition the court for an expungement if and when they meet any of the above-mentioned circumstances. However, if a person happens to have a previous conviction of any degree or has been found or plead guilty, then expungement is not possible. The Delaware legislature has created this law in order to protect those who are innocent and whose criminal record would otherwise harm their employment or educational opportunities. Due to the circumstances of the law, an eligible person may in fact file the petition for the expungement soon after acquittal, dismissal, or when the charges are dropped by the state (nolle prosequi).

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