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Legislation expanding access to expungements heads to Delaware House

Delaware Public Media

Legislation allowing more Delawareans to seal their criminal records is headed to the Delaware House.

The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Darius Brown, increases the number of offenses eligible for expungement. The state Senate passed it unanimously this week.

It would allow some misdemeanors to be automatically expunged while other crimes could be sealed by a judge at their discretion. Some offenses would require the governor issue a pardon first.

Delaware currently only allows adults convicted of certain misdemeanors to have their records expunged after receiving a pardon. As well as people who were charged, but not convicted of a crime.

Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings said it will help decrease recidivism by making it easier for people to get jobs and obtain housing.

“In these cases, barriers to successfully exiting the system create an incredible cost to public safety, to tax dollars and to the economy as a whole,” she said.

Former Delaware death row inmate Isaiah McCoy said he supports the legislation. The state Supreme Court overturned his murder conviction in 2015 and a later trial found him not guilty. Prosecutors in Hawaii filed sex trafficking charges against him last year, which they dropped. But McCoy also has other convictions on his record.

“It has completely evaporated all job opportunities and it really encroaches on your right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said.

Offenses like manslaughter, murder and rape are not eligible to be sealed, even if the person get a pardon.

The legislation also requires that victims are notified of the expungement request and can voice an opinion on it.

Law enforcement officers will be able to access sealed criminal records during their investigations and for processing concealed carry gun permit applications.

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