Delaware decriminalized simple possession of marijuana almost 3 years ago. Those that received a simple possession charge prior to decriminalization may be able to have that conviction expunged. Governor Carney signed the bill into law on August 28.
The legislation was sponsored by Senator Greg Lavelle and Representative Valerie Longhurst, according to Delaware Public Radio. The legislation aimed to help those with convictions to move forward with their lives and not have a drug conviction hanging over their heads.
Longhurst said, “On that question, ‘have you been arrested and convicted,’ that’s on a form for an employment opportunity, you get to say no. It’s gone, it’s not part of your record anymore, and it really is that simple.”
Pardons could be applied for before this legislation took effect. Discretionary expungements may have been issued then, but now expungement is guaranteed and the process is much faster. It is estimated that between 500 and 700 Delaware residents are eligible for the expungements.
The new law applies only to those that had just a simple marijuana possession charge. Those with additional charges may not be eligible.
Lavelle said, “If you’re a violent criminal, and often people may have multiple charges including possession of marijuana, that wasn’t our intent. It was to bring parity with the decriminalization law.”
Administration fees and forms must be submitted for an expungement application to be considered. Lavelle is also working on a plan to reach out to those that may be eligible.
The punishment for possessing an ounce or less in the state is a civil violation and a $100 fine.