House Bill 115 would end the prosecution of children under 12, except for the most serious charges, and would bar transferring juveniles under the age of 16 to Superior Court. The Senate passed this bill unanimously, after the House did likewise earlier. The bill now heads to Governor Carney.
Under HB 115, juveniles under 12 could only be criminally charged with serious offenses such as murder, first- or second-degree rape or using a firearm. Juveniles under 12 who otherwise would be charged with less serious offenses would be referred to the Juvenile Civil Citation Program.
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.
|House Bill 115 Sponsors||Yes Votes||No Votes|
|Chukwuocha, Dorsey Walker, Heffernan, Cooke, Griffith, K.Johnson, Kowalko, Lambert, Longhurst, Lynn, Morrison, WIlson-Anton||House 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 Yearick||Lynn (Absent)|
|Townsend, Brown, S.McBride, Paradee, Sokola||Senate Passed 21-0. Brown Ennis Gay Hansen Lockman Mantzavinos Paradee Pinkney Poore S.McBride Sokola Sturgeon Townsend Walsh Bonini Hocker Lawson Lopez Pettyjohn Richardson Wilson||None|
|Current Status —||Sent to the Governor|
“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.”