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Politics & Government

Advocates, lawmakers push for bill to auto-expunge criminal records

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Advocates and lawmakers in Delaware are pushing for legislation to create a system for automatic expungement of criminal records.

The ACLU of Delaware is working with state Sen. Darius Brown to draft Clean Slate legislation that would automatically seal the criminal records for people applying for housing or jobs.

Brown says the bill will help provide pathways out of poverty. 

“This allows individuals who have paid their debt to society to access, housing, employment, education and opportunity,” said Brown.      

Brown sponsored a 2019 bill later signed into law allowing citizens to petition for expungement of certain violations or misdemeanors after a certain period of time.

The details of Brown's forthcoming effort have yet to be ironed out to specify which charges would be automatically sealed or how long criminal records would remain on an individual’s record before being sealed.

But ACLU of Delaware executive director Mike Brickner says it will be drafted and introduced very soon. 

“The sooner we can get this bill through the legislature to Gov. Carney’s desk the better,” said Brickner. “People are suffering right now under COVID.”   

Delaware Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester supports the bill and says it’s her priority to enact similar legislation on the federal level. She cosponsored a bipartisan federal Clean Slate bill in 2019.

“Those who have served their time and paid their debt to society deserve a fair shot at a second chance,” said Blunt Rochester.   

Pennsylvania became the first state to pass a clean slate law in 2018 and is now looking to expand the program to include felonies. Utah and Michigan followed later, and Delaware is now among about a dozen states with campaigns to enact similar legislation.

More than 250,000 people in Delaware have criminal records, according to the ACLU.

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