The state Senate Judicial Committee took public comment on legislation allowing more Delawareans to seal criminal records Wednesday.
State Sen. Darius Brown’s (D-Wilmington) bill would allow people convicted of certain crimes to have their records sealed.
Current law only allows expungements if there is no conviction and for some misdemeanors after the governor issues a pardon.
Under Brown’s legislation, people must essentially be first offenders. Under the measure, people must essentially be first offenders to qualify. Automatic expungements would apply when a defendant is not convicted. People with some low level offenses and some misdemeanors could also get their records automatically expunged.
Corie Priest, New Castle County re-entry supervisor for Connections, served two years for dealing marijuana.
“May 2nd, 2018 the governor signed my pardon," he said. "That was my second birthday. So my mom said ‘Oh you’re whole again.’ I said ‘Oh oh let me backtrack, no I’m not.’ Because my felony conviction could never be expunged in the state of Delaware.”
The bill also gives a court some latitude to grant expungements to people who don’t qualify automatically. Those with a single misdemeanor, a single felony conviction or a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction may be eligible.
Lt. Chuck Sawchenko with the Delaware State Police said automatic expungements could risk public safety. He said there’s no independent review of the circumstances leading to the person’s conviction.
“Example, a person arrested for a sex offense takes a plea to sexual harassment and indecent exposure," he said. "That person would be eligible for an expungement that would mandatory and that person would able to seek employment in a daycare center or a school.”
But a representative from Delaware’s Department of Justice said the bill increases public safety by reducing recidivism.
State Sen. Anthony Delcollo (R-Elsmere) said he expects to sign it out of committee because of a planned stakeholder meeting to address concerns.