In Delaware, both juveniles and adults can expunge their criminal history, with some limitations. An expungement will remove a criminal offense from state-run background checks and prevent public access to the information. It also may help you find employment, obtain housing, and get into college and vocational training programs.
Expungement of Juvenile Criminal Records
Delaware does not automatically seal or expunge juvenile records. Instead, you must file a Petition for Expungement of Juvenile Record and a copy of your certified criminal history with the Family Court. You may file a petition for expungement once you reach adulthood. A minor’s parent may also file a petition on a child’s behalf.
There are two types of expungement in Delaware: mandatory and discretionary. Juveniles are entitled to a mandatory expungement if the criminal charges did not result in a conviction. Waiting periods may apply for certain types of felony and violent offenses. Discretionary expungement is available for some juvenile convictions.
Expungement of Adult Criminal Records
In adult cases, there are also two kinds of expungement: mandatory and discretionary. Under Delaware law, you cannot expunge most adult convictions (unless pardoned).
Mandatory expungement is available to adults who have misdemeanor arrest records and charges that did not result in a conviction. However, there are numerous exceptions to this rule. You are not eligible for mandatory expungement if the arrest or charges involved:
- Sexual offenses,
- Child welfare violations,
- Unlawful imprisonment,
- Patient abuse,
- Or any other offense listed in 11 Delaware Code §4373(c).
If you need help determining your eligibility for a mandatory expungement, contact a criminal defense lawyer.
If you are ineligible for mandatory expungement, you may request a discretionary
expungement. Discretionary expungement is available in Delaware if you were:
- Criminal charges were not pursued, or
- You were placed on probation before a judgment was issued, and you completed the terms of your probation.
Applying for a discretionary expungement is more complicated than a mandatory expungement since you must prove that public access to your criminal record would cause “manifest injustice” or hardship. You may be able to prove hardship if you are cannot get a job or housing because of your criminal history.
Before you request a Delaware expungement, you must get a certified copy of your criminal history from the State Bureau of Identification. This certified criminal history must be attached to your Petition for Expungement of Adult Record. Once filed, the Family Court will review your petition. If necessary, it will schedule a hearing.
Associated Fees and Paperwork
There are fees are associated with a Delaware expungement. You must pay a filing fee and the cost of your certified criminal history. If you hire an expungement lawyer, you will also be charged attorney fees.
Implications of a Successful Expungement
If the Family Court grants your petition, you may lawfully state that the expunged criminal record does not exist. When most employers search your Delaware criminal record, the charges will not be present. However, your criminal record is not destroyed—and it may be available to law enforcement agencies.
Consulting an Attorney
A successful expungement petition requires supporting evidence, including evidence of manifest injustice or hardship. A criminal lawyer or Delaware expungement lawyer can help guide you through the expungement process. Additionally, a lawyer can speak on your behalf during a Family Court hearing and give you the best chance of expunging your record.