Delaware Vote Tracker

HB305 – No more juvenile offenses being used as qualifying offenses for sentence enhancements

Currently, juvenile drug convictions can be used as a qualifying offense in Delaware’s sentence enhancement laws for drug offenses.  Thus, if a Defendant is convicted of certain drug crimes and has one prior adult drug conviction and one prior juvenile adjudication within the past 10 years, he or she can face a drastic increase in sentence.  For example, if that defendant were convicted of “drug dealing – aggravated possession”, a class D felony, he or she will be sentenced as if they had committed a class B felony. The sentence for a class D felony is up to 8 years imprisonment. For a class B felony the sentence can be up to 25 years, and 2 years is the minimum mandatory sentence.

There is no other part of the criminal code that uses a juvenile adjudication as a statutory sentence enhancement in an adult conviction.   And that could be because juvenile offenses are not tried before a jury, and which may be relatively remote in time.  Furthermore, these sentence enhancements using bring a minimum mandatory sentence, thus reducing the discretion entrusted to judges.

HB302 is a part of several criminal justice reform bills that retiring Representative J.J. Johnson is sponsoring.  It would be a lovely retirement gift and a thank you for his long public service to pass these bills so as to move Delaware away from the “lock them all up forever” folly of the drug war.

The bill simply removes the provision that allows a juvenile adjudication to be used as a second “prior qualifying Title 16 conviction.” Prosecutors may still apply the sentencing enhancement for the single qualifying adult conviction that meets the criteria set out in that section, and may use the enhancement for two prior convictions where both convictions occurred when the defendant was an adult. Judges will continue to be able to consider the defendant’s juvenile record as a factor in determining the appropriate sentence. Finally, where a juvenile was tried and sentenced as an adult, that conviction may still be used for the sentencing enhancement.

SPONSORS: J.Johnson, Townsend, Henry, Lawson, McDowell, Heffernan, Longhurst, Lynn, Potter, Lavelle, Bentz, Brady, Paradee
HISTORY: Out of Committee 1/24/18; On Ready List
STATUS: Waiting on consideration in committee

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