Delaware legislature advances marijuana expungement bill

Legislative Hall in Dover. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Legislative Hall in Dover. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

The Delaware Senate unanimously advanced a bipartisan bill that would provide mandatory expungement eligibility to certain people with marijuana charges.

Introduced by Senate Minority Whip Greg Lavelle, R-Sharpley, and House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, the measure would grant expungements to those convicted of possession, use or consumption of marijuana prior to 2015. That year the General Assembly passed a bill to decriminalize those offenses and it was signed by then-Gov. Jack Markell.

Eligibility under the pending bill requires the marijuana conviction be the applicant’s only criminal conviction. Only those charged with a misdemeanor are eligible, and the legislation does not apply to charges that were reduced from a felony.

The measure would benefit as many as 1,247 adults convicted between 1977 and 2015, according to data from the Delaware Criminal Justice Information System.

Those charged since 2015 received a civil violation and a fine. Those convicted prior to the change in the law have a criminal record.

Under current law, adults cannot apply for an expungement unless they’re not convicted or are pardoned.

Individuals must go through an application process and pay a $75 fee to receive an expungement.

For juvenile expungements, the Office of Defense Services currently raises funds for those who can’t afford the application fee.

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