The Delaware Second Chance Expungement Gap
Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, §§ 4372, et seq allows individuals whose criminal records meet certain conditions to expunge their records. Ascertaining, then applying the law to a sample of 1,266 criminal histories including 66% with convictions records, and then extrapolating to the estimated population of 250K individuals in the state with criminal records, we estimate the share and number of people who are eligible for relief but have not received it and therefore fall into the “second chance gap”—the difference between eligibility for and receipt of records relief. (We did not model legal financial obligations or other out of record criteria).
Based on the method described above, we find that approximately 40% of individuals in our sample are eligible to clear their convictions, 38% can clear all convictions, and 85% of individuals with records are eligible to clear their records, 54% of all records. Extrapolating to the total number of people with records in Delaware, this yields an estimated 61K people with convictions that are eligible for convictions relief, 153K with records that are eligible for any relief that haven’t received it. Combining historical expungement statistics with our eligibility calculations, an estimated 6% of people with records eligible for relief have received it, leaving behind 94% of people with records. Based on reported records, the State expunged approximately 1,101 cases in the last year of available data (2019). At this rate, it would take approximately ~194 years to clear the existing second chance expungement gap in the backlog alone. However, due to deficiencies in the data and ambiguities in the law uncovered during our analysis, including regarding disposition, chargetype, and sentence completion criteria, to provide relief through “Clean Slate” automated approaches would require significant data normalization and cleaning efforts. We include, in Appendix E, statute drafting alternatives to avoid some of these problems. Included in our report are our Methodology (Appendix A); Disposition Data Report (Appendix B); Appendix C (Common Charges); Detailed Expungement Statistics (Appendix D); Clearance Criteria Challenges and Legislative Drafting Alternatives (Appendix E).
The following is a summary of the law prepared by law students under the supervision of a professor based on consulting multiple sources. It is only up to date as of the dates shown below and in many cases we had to make judgment calls. Therefore we encourage you to also consult the sources below, as well as the Restoration of Rights Project that include summaries of the law for all 50 states and US territories.
Sources: Chapter 961a Section 54-142a (2019) / Chapter 960a Section 54-76o (2019) / Section 54-130a (2019) / Connecticut CCRC (6/4/2020) / State Official Guide (2019) / Board of Pardons Guide (2018) [we also consulted with a local attorney]
Summary of the Law
- Erasure/Destruction of records for any misdemeanor conviction granted absolute pardon, upon 3-year waiting-period from date of conviction. Section 54-142a(d)(1);(d)(2); Section 54-130a.
- Erasure for any convictions where the conduct was subsequently decriminalized (unauthorized possession of less than ½ ounce of marijuana - C.G.S. 21a-279a), with no waiting-period. Section 54-142(d).
- Felonies: Erasure/Destruction of records for any felony conviction granted absolute pardon, upon 5 year wait-period from date of conviction. Section 54-142a(d)(1);(d)(2); Section 54-130a.
- Not Eligible: None expressly stated, but Pardon Board takes into account severity of crime. (State Official Guide / Board of Pardons Guide)
- Lifetime or Other Limits: None Found
- LFO Payment Required for Sentence Completion: None Found
- Other Unmodeled Criteria or Details:
NON-CONVICTIONS: Chapter 961a Section 54-142a (2019)
- Erasure of any charges dismissed or found not guilty if time to appeal has run out (can assume 20 day limit), or if holding affirmed, then automatically with no wait time (Sec. 54-142a(a)).
- Erasure of any charges nolled, automatically, after a 13-month waiting-period from the date of disposition. (Sec. 54-142a(c)(1)).