Delaware Vote Tracker

Bill that raises the Age of Juvenile Prosecution to 12 passes House

The House also passed House Bill 115 Thursday by a vote of 40-0-1. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha, the measure would end the prosecution of children under 12, except for the most serious charges, and would bar transferring juveniles under 16 to Superior Court.

Scientific research has determined that youths’ brains are still developing well into adulthood, and HB 115 would take that into account by setting a minimum age of prosecution. Children in Delaware have minimum ages set for many things: getting a driver’s license, enlisting in the military, applying for a loan or opening a credit card, using a tanning bed, drinking alcohol, and buying tickets to an R-rated movie.

Under HB 115, juveniles under 12 could only be criminally charged with serious offenses such as murder, first- or second-degree rap or using a firearm. Juveniles under 12 who otherwise would be charged with less serious offenses would be referred to the Juvenile Offender Civil Citation Program.

House Bill 115 SponsorsYes VotesNo Votes
Chukwuocha, Dorsey Walker, Heffernan, Cooke, Griffith, K.Johnson, Kowalko, Lambert, Longhurst, Lynn, Morrison, WIlson-AntonHouse Passed 40-0-1. Baumbach Bennett Bentz Bolden Brady Bush Carson Chukwuocha Cooke Dorsey-Walker Griffith Heffernan K.Johnson K.Williams Kowalko Lambert Longhurst Matthews Minor-Brown Mitchell Morrison Osienski S.Moore Schwartzkopf Wilson-Anton  Briggs King Collins D.Short Dukes Gray Hensley M.Smith Morris Postles Ramone Shupe Smyk Spiegelman Vanderwende YearickLynn (Absent)
Townsend, Brown, S.McBride, Paradee, Sokola
Current Status —

“Adolescents’ brains aren’t fully developed until they’re in their mid-20s, so charging 10-year-olds with crimes only damages the child’s future. Too many lives have been sent down a dark path because of a youthful mistake,” said Rep. Chukwuocha. “There are better ways to hold young children accountable for minor incidents without causing lifelong problems by putting them into the criminal justice system at such a young age.”

“Our laws do not, and should not, treat children the same as adults for the simple reason that they are not the same physiologically, emotionally or developmentally,” said Senate Majority Leader Bryan Townsend, the Senate prime sponsor of HB 115. “The science on this is clear and should be reflected in our justice system. A child under the age of 12 who commits a crime short of the most egregious violent offenses is best served by interventions, support and a second chance, not a criminal sentence that will follow them for the rest of their lives.”

HB 115 heads to the Senate for consideration.

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