Delaware Vote Tracker

HB306 – Restoring Judicial Discretion and HB307 – No Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Juveniles

State Representative J.J. Johnson has introduced two new pieces of his criminal justice reform push.   The first bill, HB306, permits judges to utilize their discretion in determining whether a juvenile charged with possession of a firearm during commission of a felony should be transferred back to Family Court or remain in Superior Court.  Prior to 2017, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony was only one of five criminal charges where judges had no discretion in determining whether a juvenile should be treated as a juvenile or an adult because the statute required a juvenile charged with these offenses to be prosecuted as an adult.

Last year, HB9, which was enacted last year, provided judges the discretion to determine how a juvenile should be treated for four other offenses. HB306 is a continuation of that effort. The bill simply changes the language from ‘shall’ to ‘may’ to allow judges to weigh the possibility that a juvenile may be better served in Delaware’s Family Court system through the amenability process already enumerated in Title 10 § 1010 and § 1011. This bill also raises the age from 15 to 16.

In my mind, anything that gives judges the power to use their own discretion in weighing the evidence and circumstances on their own rather than by following some preordained schedule enacted by reactionary legislators is better.

HB306 – RESTORING JUDICIAL DISCRETION.
SPONSORS: J.Johnson, McDowell, Henry, Townsend, Longhurst, Heffernan, Lynn, Potter, Brady, Paradee
YES VOTES:
NO VOTES:
ABSENT:
NOT VOTING:
HISTORY: House Judiciary 1/23/18
STATUS: Waiting on consideration in committee

The second bill, HB307, would repeal and remove all minimum-mandatory sentencing schemes for juveniles adjudicated delinquent in Family Court.  A recent US Supreme Court decision, Miller v. Alabama, prohibited mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles because “children are constitutionally different from adults for sentencing purposes.”   Further, medical and scientific research has proven that an adolescent’s brain is not fully developed until his/her mid-twenties which makes juveniles especially prone to making poor choices. This bill will still provide Family Court judges and commissioners with the ability to impose a commitment to a DSCYF secure placement, but these judges and commissioners would now have the ability to exercise their judicial discretion to fashion an appropriate sentence for an individual juvenile.

HB307 – NO MANDATORY MINIMUM SENTENCES FOR JUVENILES.
SPONSORS: J.Johnson, McDowell, Henry, Townsend, Longhurst, Heffernan, Lynn, Potter, Brady, Paradee
YES VOTES:
NO VOTES:
ABSENT:
NOT VOTING:
HISTORY: House Judiciary 1/23/18
STATUS: Waiting on consideration in committee

1 comment on “HB306 – Restoring Judicial Discretion and HB307 – No Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Juveniles

  1. elizabeth

    Ferris is run by ex cops..who oversees that facility to assure those juveniles are in fact safe and secure? Those who have been released speak of bedllam, chaos and violence behind the scene.

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