If you have been involved in a criminal action, having that black mark on your record can cause problems later in life, even if you have been rehabilitated. Expungement and record sealing provide a chance to start over.
Expungement vs. Sealing
Sealing and expungement of a criminal record are not exactly the same, even though the terms are often used interchangeably. Record sealing shields the records from general view. Expungement means the records are destroyed. In Delaware, the term expungement usually means record sealing. Documents are not actually destroyed.
Some states, like Delaware, allow unsealing of records in certain circumstances. If the petitioner is convicted of the same crime after expungement or sealing the ruling may be reversed and the information will be publicly available once again. Expungement will not remove the criminal record entirely, but show the case as dismissed and no guilt is found.
Your record must be expunged if you meet certain qualifications:
- You were charged with a misdemeanor and the case ended in your favor.
- You were not previously convicted of a criminal offense.
Mandatory expungement is not allowed in cases of sex offense, trespassing with intent to peep, endangering the welfare of a child or an incompetent person, patient abuse, operation of a vehicle under the influence, and other serious infractions.
If you are not eligible for mandatory expungement, you may be able to file a petition for expungement in Delaware Family Court if you were charged as an adult and were acquitted; had the charge dismissed; or the prosecutor decided not to pursue the charge. You must show that your criminal record causes you excess hardship, or manifest injustice, such as trouble finding a job or getting into school.
Denial of Expungement
Any prior conviction of a criminal offense will affect your petition for expungement. You will not be considered as suffering a hardship, and your petition will likely be denied without a hearing. Should the attorney general oppose your petition, you may not be allowed an expungement as it is completely up to the court.
Expungement is not granted for serious felonies such as offenses against children, murder, and kidnapping.
What Do You Need?
You can file for expungement on your own, but an attorney is invaluable to ensure the process is completed properly and your records are successfully expunged. You will need to fill out a form and provide personal information and case details.
If you do not have access to the information or cannot recall the details, the court in the county where you were charged can provide you with information about your case.
How Do You Go About Filing?
The form to request a record sealing or expungement is available online at the Delaware State Courts website. The steps are:
- Fill out and file the paperwork for expungement with a copy of your Certified State Criminal History. A fee will be charged for the document.
- The court will send the paperwork to the prosecutor’s office for verification of eligibility.
- You may need to appear at hearings.
- If you omit information on the form, your petition will not be heard
If your petition is granted in Family Court, the records will be expunged. If your case was filed in the Court of Common Please or the Justice of the Peace Court, the petition for expungement must be filed with the Prothonotary Office in Superior Court. You may also file for pardon or commutation to the Board of Pardons.
If your crimes were committed as a juvenile, you may apply to erase your record. All records will be deleted and you will be able to legally state you have never been arrested or convicted of the charges. Some offenses may not be expunged such as driving offenses.
Who Can Represent Me?
It is always confusing and stressful when petitioning the court. Speak with an attorney for the best possible representation and outcome.