Del. Senators Pass New Phase Of Bail Reform
People charged with certain offenses would not be eligible for bail, under a bill (SS 1 for SB 11) approved in the Delaware State Senate Thursday.
The first leg of a proposed constitutional amendment would allow the General Assembly to add crimes and circumstances where preventative detention would protect public safety.
Currently, courts are permitted to hold someone without bail only in instances of capital offenses. The term “capital offenses” covered crimes such as manslaughter, rape, robbery, armed assaults and burglary when the Constitution was first written.
“I have helped to lead the charge to move our state away from its reliance on cash bail for low-level offenses because it was the right thing to do,” Senate Majority Leader Bryan Townsend, D- Newark, Bear said. “Protecting our neighbors and our communities from people accused of some of the most violent and heinous crimes is also the right thing to do, and I am proud of my colleagues in the Senate for recognizing that those values are not incompatible. Delaware deserves a rational justice system that is both fair to defendants and capable of protecting the community. The legislation we passed today is an important step forward in ensuring that balance.”
A constitutional amendment must be approved in two consecutive General Assemblies.
“Over the next year, dedicated legislators will begin work on legislation that will set out exactly which felonies and what circumstances should preclude defendants from being able to re-enter society while they await trial,” Townsend added. “But the multi-year process of amending our state Constitution should not –and must not – wait. We can start that process now while we engage in an open and honest discussion around how this constitutional power should be deployed.”
“Delaware has taken many important steps in reforming our bail process, particularly in reducing our use of cash bail for minor offenses,” Representative Nnamdi Chukwuocha, the House prime sponsor of SS 1 for SB 11, D-Wilmington said. “However it’s vital for the safety of our communities that those in our criminal justice system maintain the discretion to implement or withhold bail for the most serious offenses. This is a long overdue step toward modernizing our criminal justice system to make it more equitable and fair for all Delawareans.”