FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Lori Sitler
Phone: (302) 577-8314
Pager: (302) 247-1132
Date: March 7, 2002
(Wilmington, DE) - Attorney General M. Jane Brady unveiled her Sentencing Reform Proposals at a press briefing today in her Wilmington office. These sentencing reform proposals, on issues ranging from penalties for firearms possession to drug trafficking, are consistent with the Attorney General's previous legislative agendas and the policies she has implemented throughout her tenure.
The proposals will advance the goal of preserving Delaware's prison space for the most violent and repetitive offenders who most threaten public safety. Brady stated, "I believe that we should decide what the sentence should be based on the risk that people present to the public and when government knows that people present a risk to the public and fails to properly address it, we fail the people we serve."
Highlights of the Attorney General's Sentencing Reform proposal include:
The current one-year mandatory minimum jail sentence for a person convicted of a violent felony and who thereafter illegally possesses a firearm or ammunition will increase. The minimum sentence will be increased to three years if the offender has one previous conviction for a violent felony and five years if the offender has two or more such convictions.
In cases involving convictions for the most serious sex crimes, judges will be permitted to sentence offenders to probation for life in addition to the prison sentences and other penalties already provided by law.
The minimum weight of heroin necessary to constitute the crime of Trafficking in Heroin will be lowered from 5 grams to 3 grams.
Judges will have discretion to suspend some or all of the mandatory prison sentences required in drug trafficking cases involving first-time offenders who possess relatively small quantities of illegal drugs.
The minimum mandatory prison sentence in certain Possession with Intent to Deliver drug cases will be reduced from 15 to 5 years.
Judges will impose sentences of mandatory home confinement instead of jail sentences in certain Driving While Suspended or Driving After Judgment Prohibited cases where death, injuries or intoxication is not involved.
Judges will have stronger authority to order that prison sentences be served without the benefit of good time or other forms of early release.
The Department of Correction will be given discretion to classify offenders sentenced to probation to the appropriate level of supervision without filing additional legal paperwork and scheduling Court review.
A major element of the sentencing reform involves giving discretion to judges in minor drug trafficking cases. When questioned about the sentences for drug offenses, Brady remarked, "The perception that we are putting minor offenders in jail for long periods of time is simply not factually accurate. But, as the public's concern is primarily regarding that category of offenders, this proposal would allow minor, first time offenders with less than 10 grams, if the court deems it appropriate, to receive a suspension of all or any portion of the mandatory sentence."
These changes to the sentencing laws reflect a common sense approach that will help promote public confidence in the justice system.