The Delaware Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s denial of expungement applications filed by three men because of their convictions in other states, the Associated Press reports. The 3-2 decision involves a 2019 state law that expanded eligibility for expungement of criminal records -- but only only if a person has “no prior or subsequent convictions,” except for traffic offenses, simple possession of marijuana or underage possession of alcohol. A lower court ruled that the prohibition on prior or subsequent convictions included out-of-state convictions. But the Democratic majority on the Supreme Court disagreed. “After reading the statute as a whole and avoiding inconsistencies and impracticalities, we hold that ‘prior or subsequent convictions’ refers only to Delaware convictions,” wrote Chief Justice Collins J. Seitz Jr.
The case defendants include Alex Osgood, who pleaded guilty in Delaware in 2011 to felony possession with intent to deliver marijuana and was attempting to expunge that charge. But a judge declared Osgood ineligible for expungement because he had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor marijuana possession in 2006 while a student at West Virginia University. Also, Osama Qaiymah sought expungement of a 2015 Delaware conviction for possession of untaxed tobacco products, but was was denied because of misdemeanor convictions in Pennsylvania in 2018 and Maryland in 2020 involving unstamped cigarettes. And Eric Fritz was arrested in Delaware in 2009 and pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors and a felony charge of failing to abide by a no-contact order. He was deemed ineligible for expungement in Delaware because of a 2011 conviction for disorderly conduct in Pennsylvania.