PARDONS AND EXPUNGEMENTS
Forgiving and forgetting
A pardon is the forgiveness of a crime and the cancellation of the relevant penalty. In most states, pardons are granted by the elected governor. In Delaware, a Board of Pardons makes recommendations to the governor. A pardon (also called an “executive clemency”) does not “erase” the criminal event; rather, it constitutes the state’s forgiveness. And though a pardon does not remove the conviction from official records, it will generally restore a person’s civil rights, such as the rights to vote and hold public office. A pardon may also remove barriers to employment, professional licensing, public housing, social services, education, and other opportunities.
An expungement is different because it actually seals the criminal record. When an expungement is granted, the person whose record is expunged may, for most purposes, treat the event as if it never occurred. An expungement proceeding is a type of lawsuit in which a first-time offender without a prior criminal conviction seeks an order that the earlier process be sealed, thereby making those records unavailable through the state or Federal repositories.
An expungement “erases” the record, so that a person’s state background check will no longer show a criminal record. Standards for receiving an expungement are high.
This State of Delaware website [http://www.pardons.delaware.gov] provides a full description of the process of obtaining a pardon or expungement. For assistance in obtaining a pardon or expungement contact APEX, a free program of the Delaware Department of Labor’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. [www.apex.delawareworks.com]
Advocacy by Our Coalition
The Coalition’s Pardons and Expungements Action Committee advocates for a fairer process in the way criminal records are maintained and viewed. In Delaware, the outcome of every arrest, charge, and conviction is recorded on what is known as a criminal record. These records are available to any employer, landlord, etc. who does a background search, and may impose a barrier to becoming gainfully employed, obtaining a residence of choice, or to fair treatment in other areas.
Rules regarding expungement of juvenile offenses have been revised and improved by Family Court. However, additional changes are needed, such as prohibiting general background searches of juvenile records by employers and others. Our action committee also advocates for automatic mandatory expungements without an application and accompanying fee. Currently, an individual must apply and pay a fee to receive an expungement, even when it is deemed mandatory by the court system.
Adult Pardons and Expungements
Currently, adult records are maintained for a lifetime—including charges that do not result in convictions—unless a pardon and/or expungement has been obtained. Our action committee advocates for a change that will maintain only convictions on the record. Our action committee is also considering its position on how long records should be made available to general view by employers, etc. once the person’s sentence has been completed.