Delaware Lawmakers Vote to Reduce Barriers to Career Licensure for Those With Criminal Records

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Featured Delaware Lawmakers Vote to Reduce Barriers to Career Licensure for Those With Criminal Records

Delaware lawmakers have recently voted to remove criminal history restrictions on career licensure in many high-demand fields. The bill sponsored by State Representative Melissa Minor-Brown bars professional licensure boards from denying licensure to applicants with criminal records who meet the criteria. Minor-Brown states, “This bill removes those barriers to the maximum extent consistent with public safety.”

To achieve this, the bill identifies specific types of criminal history that licensing boards should not consider. This list includes pending charges, charges that did not lead to a conviction, juvenile records, records for convictions that are greater than ten years old, and records for convictions that were sealed, pardoned, or expunged. In addition, the bill provides an exception to the 10-year requirement for convictions of sexual offenses.

The bill would also introduce certain factors for the licensing authorities to consider when determining whether to deny or provide a waiver for individual licensures based on criminal records. Additionally, the bill provides a process for individuals to inquire with the Division of Professional Regulation to determine if their criminal history disqualifies them from receiving specific licenses. For example, suppose the Board or Division chooses to disqualify an individual from licensure based on criminal history. In that case, it must provide the individual with a written statement and a chance to submit rebuttal materials if they choose.

According to state representatives, such as Representative Ruth Briggs-King, the current regulation often prohibits individuals with criminal records from finding employment in fields that are currently in high demand. As a result, this regulation unnecessarily denies work to individuals with criminal records and prevents employers from accessing a large potential workforce.

Though state lawmakers reduced the restrictions on licensing considerably, it retained some key restrictions. Examples include permitting restrictions on licensure for sex crimes and convictions of crimes related to finances. This change allows the Division to consider if such a conviction may impact an individual’s ability to be trusted with key responsibilities in many fields.

This new legislation is only the latest in several state legislators’ attempts to reduce the barriers for those with a criminal record. Earlier in this legislative session, the General Assembly voted to introduce “ban-the-box” legislation for higher education institutions. This ban blocks colleges and universities, among others, from inquiring about most criminal history as a prerequisite for attending the institution, with exceptions for crimes such as rape and murder. A signature from Delaware’s Governor John Carney will allow this legislation to go into effect.

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