A bill that would add teeth to the bail system for some violent crimes was amended by two Democrat State Representatives this week.
Rewind. In January 2018 John Carney signed a bill that placed the state among a small group of states experimenting with bail reform. At the time, the bill’s sponsor Senator Bryan Townsend said “You have poor people who pose no risk of flight or no risk to the community incarcerated on a full-time basis before trial”.
Shortly after bail reform was passed in Delaware a flood of defendants started getting OR bonds, unsecured bonds, or very low bail, some repeatedly. Some of those defendants were charged with assaulting police officers, shooting people, armed robbery, stabbing a victim, drug dealing, escape, sexually abusing a child, and a host of other crimes.
Fast forward to June 2021. Facing mounting criticism from the public Democrats introduced Senate Bill 7, a bill that would reverse some of the effects of Townsend’s 2018 legislation. The bipartisan bill would update the bail statute to be explicit that when defendants commit certain serious offenses they would be held on secured cash bail.
Such offenses would include class A felonies, gun offenses, domestic violence offenses, rape, sexual abuse of children, and reoffending while out on bond. In order to protect public safety, sufficient bail would be set for defendants committing those types of offenses.
The bill also establishes an automatic bail review hearing by Superior Court for the enumerated offenses to allow an additional review of the bail conditions. The bill would require the court to document the reasons they set bail in all cases to help all involved understand their decision and serve as a record in future proceedings like bail modification hearings.
On Wednesday Democrat State Representative Sean Lynn of Dover introduced an amendment to Senate Bill 7 that would strip all crimes from the signal offenses list except for firearms offenses.
Lynn originally added an amendment, House Amendment 2 to Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 7, that listed the crimes that should be stripped from the bill. That amendment would remove strangulation, assault in the second degree, rape in the third degree, arson in the first degree, burglary first degree (except home invasion burglary), stalking, possession of a deadly weapon during commission of a felony, any domestic violence offense allegedly committed while the defendant is pending adjudication on a previously charged violent felony allegedly committed against the same victim, and tier 3 drug dealing. It would also alter the presumption for signal offenses to cash or secured bail rather than cash bail only.
He later added the following amendment, House Amendment 2 to Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 7, “This amendment removes all crimes from the signal offenses list except for firearms offenses”.
Democrat State Representative Paul Baumbach of Newark also added an amendment that would get rid of these changes shortly after the 2022 election cycle.
Baumbach’s amendment, House Amendment 1 to Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 7 reads as follows: This amendment changes the sunset section so that this Act expires on January 31, 2023.
This item is first on the list during today’s Legislative Day agenda and can be watched live HERE