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Deleting a public record in Delaware means removing it from the public domain. There are two ways to remove a record from public access: by expunging it and by sealing it. An expunged record is erased or permanently removed. Only law enforcement officials can access such records and this is only permitted in specific situations. Sealing a record is the second way of removing it from the public domain. Unlike expungement, this is not a permanent deletion but simply the restriction of access to the record.
There are different reasons to expunge or seal public records in Delaware. The most common reasons for the deleting these records are to:
- Prevent confidential details in these records from entering the public domain. Confidential information usually prompting record sealing include medical and financial records
- Protect the individuals named in those records from harm and harassment. Sensitive information such as names, addresses, and actions may turn public sentiments against individuals named in certain public records enough to increase the risk of assault or stalking
- Shield minors from public scrutiny. By default, Delaware protects the identities of minors named in public records
- Prevent pardoned crimes and overturned convictions from causing discrimination and limiting the opportunities available to individuals named in these records
Delaware upholds the publicâ€™s right to access public records. Therefore, it rarely allows deleting public records. It is even more likely to seal these records than expunge them. The state has specific rules regarding sealing public records and only a very small number of records qualify for this action. Even then, truly deleting a Delaware public record is very difficult because public records are aggregated by third-party repositories. When deleted records are removed from the databases of Delawareâ€™s government, agencies, law enforcement, and courts, they may still persist in these independent third-party repositories.
What Is a Public Record in Delaware?
The Delaware Code defines a public record as any physical or electronic document in the form of written word or record audio or video created or maintained in the course of conducting public business by an employee of the state or any of its political subdivisions.
The Delaware Freedom of Information Act, first established in 1977, guarantees the publicâ€™s access to the public records of the stateâ€™s governmental bodies. Members of the public can request any record as long as it is not deemed confidential and exempted from the public domain. They are entitled to replies to their requests within 15 days and do not need to state the purpose of these requests.
Some records available to the public in Delaware include:
- Criminal records
- Court records
- Arrest records
- Vital records
- Personnel records of government agencies
The government of Delaware courts may order some of these records to be made confidential if public knowledge of their contents are deemed invasion of privacy. For example, some court records are sealed while the stateâ€™s law enforcement has the right to withhold criminal records used in ongoing police investigations.
Notable records that are not made public in Delaware include:
- Adoption records
- Autopsy records
- Child custody information
- Labor registration records
- Records of registered concealed weapons permits
While these records are sealed by default, Delaware also allows individuals to request the sealing or expungement of public records related to them. Such requests must be filed in the court. In Delaware, the order to delete or restrict access to a public record can only be provided by a judge.
Individuals can follow official guidelines to apply to seal or expunge their records. Some may retain the services of attorneys to help with this process. We can also help those seeking to delete their records in Delaware. For anyone looking for a fresh start, sealing or deleting a public record that can limit their chances is the first step.
Does Delaware Allow Expungement?
Yes. Delaware allows the expungement of criminal records. The state makes provision for two types of record expungement: mandatory and discretionary. Mandatory expungement is handled by the Delaware State Bureau of Investigation while Delaware courts handle discretionary expungement.
In 2019, Delaware expanded its expungement laws to make a wider set of public records eligible for expungement. This expansion makes expungement mandatory for records of cases decided in the favor of the accused. This definition includes:
- acquittals of all charges
- a nolle prosequi on all charges
- dismissal after probation before judgment
- dismissal of all charges
- and arrests that are not charged within 1 year of the arrest
Certain less serious convictions (including misdemeanors and violations) also qualify for mandatory expungement under the new law. For example, Delaware may expunge the records of one or more violations in the same case 3 years after conviction. Similarly, the records of one or more misdemeanor or a combination of violations and misdemeanors relating to the same case may be expunged 5 years after conviction. In both cases, the individual must not be convicted of any violation or misdemeanor before and after the conviction to qualify for mandatory record expungement.
A Delaware court may expunge a felony or misdemeanor record if it finds that the continued existence and sharing of said record may represent an injustice to the individual involved. Records that may be expunged by judicial discretion include those from:
- one non-violent felony after a seven-year waiting period
- one or more misdemeanors from the same case that are not eligible for mandatory expungement. In some, a three-year waiting period is required (e.g. domestic violence) and for others expungement is only considered after 7 years
In both cases the individual petitioning the court for discretionary expungement must have no prior or subsequent convictions to qualify.
Delaware also allows record expungement for:
- First offenders who complete controlled substance diversion programs
- Pardoned offenses
- Convicted individuals aged 80 or aged 75 with no criminal conviction over the last 40 years
- Individuals convicted of non-violent offenses as a result of being victims of human trafficking
- Those convicted of now decriminalized marijuana possession offenses as long as these are the only convictions on their records
Delaware has similar rules for expunging juvenile records as for adult criminal records. It offers mandatory expungement for juvenile records in cases:
- Not resulting adjudication
- Involving non-violent felonies and non-sexual adjudication after a wait period of 1 year
Discretionary expungement is a possibility for adjudication records after a wait period of 7 years that is crime-free. This also applies to most violent felony convictions as well as sexual adjudications. Discretionary expungement is not available for juveniles adjudicated for serious violent offenses such as rape, murder, and first-degree arson. Those convicted as adults are also not eligible for discretionary expungement.
How Do I Expunge My Criminal Record in Delaware
If you qualify for mandatory expungement in Delaware, you can ask the State Bureau of Identification (SBI) of the Delaware State Police to delete your criminal records by calling them at (302) 739-5884. If the SBI agrees that you are eligible, they will send you a letter with instructions about how to proceed.
Requests for discretionary expungement must go to the relevant court. In most cases, this is usually the Delaware Superior Court. However, Delaware Family Court can also expunge certain adult and juvenile criminal records.
The first step to requesting discretionary expungement in a Delaware Superior or Family Court is reviewing the eligibility for this action and confirming that you qualify. The next step is to download the Expungement Petition Form (Family Court Adult Petition Form) and the Expungement Order Granting Form. Following this step, request your criminal history report from the SBI. This requires submitting your fingerprints and paying the $52.50 fee requested. For additional information about this step, contact the SBI by calling (302) 739-2528 for New Castle and Sussex Counties or (302) 739-5871 for Kent County. It takes 4 - 6 weeks to obtain this report and the included cover letter.
Complete the Petition Form and make two additional copies of the document. Also, make copies of the SBIâ€™s cover, the certified criminal history report, and the order form. Create three packets with a copy of each document in each packet. File the three packets at the Office of Prothonotary of the Superior Court where the case whose record you want expunged was finalized. Sign the petition documents in front of the notary and pay the required fees. After clocking these packets, the Prothonotary Clerk will return a clocked packet to you.
When filing these packets by mail, put all three in a mailing envelope and enclose a check for a non-refundable fee of $75 made out to the State of Delaware. Mail this envelope to one of the following addresses:
500 N. King Street
Wilmington, DE 19801
38 The Green
Dover, DE 19901
1 The Circle
Georgetown, DE 19947
The Attorney General will respond to your petition within 120 days. If the Attorney General opposes your petition, you have 30 days to file a response with the court. After receiving all responses, the Prothonotaryâ€™s Office will send all documents to a Judicial Officer for a determination. The Judicial Officer may grant or refuse the expungement based on these documents without scheduling a hearing. If the Judicial Officer deems a hearing necessary, the court will contact you about the date, time, and venue of the hearing.
With or without a hearing, if the discretionary expungement is granted, the court will send signed orders to you, the SBI, and the Attorney General authorizing the expungement.
Will My Expungement Record Show Up in Background Check in Delaware?
No. Delaware effectively erases expungement records and removes all mention from background checks. It is a Class B misdemeanor in the state for anyone to officials with access to expunged records to open, review, or disclose them to anyone without an order from the court that expunged those records.
How to Seal a Record in Delaware?
The process of sealing a record in Delaware involves petitioning the court where the record was made to have it removed from the public domain. The individual seeking this action must contact the court and ask the clerkâ€™s office for an application to seal conviction, arrest, or criminal records. After submitting this application, the court will set a date for a hearing. At this hearing, the individual petitioning the court must convince the judge of the need to seal the record in question. If the judge grants this petition, the court will issue an order to have the record sealed.
Note that Delaware does not automatically seal juvenile criminal records when juvenile offenders turn 18. Individuals must petition the Delaware Family Court to have their juvenile records sealed to keep them from becoming public records when they turn 18.
Who Can See My Sealed Record in Delaware?
Federal and state law enforcement may access sealed records in Delaware but only if these records are required in the course of performing their duties or if the individuals on these records seek employment with these agencies. The person with a sealed record, and their approved legal representatives, may also access the sealed record. Besides these entities, only third parties with valid court orders can see sealed records.
How to Delete Bankruptcy Records in Delaware
One way to remove bankruptcy records in Delaware is to wait for those records to be automatically removed after the stipulated times established by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). According to FCRA rules, the record of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy will be removed from the credit report of the individual declaring this bankruptcy after 10 years. For a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the record is automatically deleted after 7 years.
To confirm that a bankruptcy record has been removed from your credit report, request an FCRA-compliant background check after the stipulated period. Note that a non-FCRA compliant record check may fail to reflect changes and still reflect a removed bankruptcy record.
It is possible to delete a bankruptcy record before the stipulated time only if the record was made in error. An incorrect name or date may put someone elseâ€™s bankruptcy record in your credit report or make your record stay longer than required. To delete this bankruptcy record, report the error to the credit bureau responsible for the error or file a suit with the United States Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware.
What Are Consumer Protection Laws in Delaware?
The Consumer Protection Unit of the Delaware is the primary agency responsible for enforcing consumer protection laws in the state. This unit is part of the Fraud and Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney Generalâ€™s Office. It most enforces the stateâ€™s Consumer Fraud Act and the Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
Other consumer protection laws in Delaware include:
- Delaware Lemon Law
- Delaware Deceptive Trade Practices Law
- Delaware Identity Theft Law
- Delaware Credit/Debit Card Fraud Law
- Delaware Pyramid and Ponzi Scheme Law
- Delaware Insurance Fraud Law
How to Delete Lien Records in Delaware
Delaware lien records are available from the Offices of the Registers of Deeds in the various counties of the state. Delaware allows judgement liens to be attached to real estate. This means that a Delaware court can grant a creditor a judgment lien on a debtorâ€™s house or land. This lien remains attached to the real estate for 10 years.
One way to remove a lien is to petition the court for a homestead exemption. This means that home with the attached line is the debtorâ€™s primary residence. If the court grants this petition, this will remove the judgement lien from the debtorâ€™s real estate. To remove the record of the lien itself, the debtor must first pay off their debts or declare bankruptcy and wait until a stipulated number of years to have the lien record removed along with the bankruptcy record.
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