Del. Lawmakers Seek Tougher Penalties for Home Invasions - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Del. Lawmakers Seek Tougher Penalties for Home Invasions

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(Photo: MGN) (Photo: MGN)

GEORGETOWN, Del.- Delaware lawmakers are proposing tougher penalties for criminals who commit home invasions.

The latest proposal would make home invasion its own crime, impose prison time double the minimum of a 1st degree burglary conviction and include aggravating factors that could lead to even tougher penalties.

The draft bill from Rep. Debra Heffernan, D-Wilmington South, would make home invasion a class B felony with a minimum four year sentence. Repeat offenders or intruders invading homes of the elderly would face additional prison time of six to eight years.

"There really isn't a crime in the code that addresses home invasions directly, so we are proposing a new criminal offense that essentially doubles the penalty for burglary," Heffernan said in a statement. "Home invasion is a serious crime and it deserves serious consequences."

Heffernan said she contacted the Delaware Department of Justice several months ago following a series of home invasions throughout the state. The bill has support from the Attorney General's Office and the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Heffernan said.

"I think they should have tougher laws, definitely," said Jack Carmona of Milford.

Carmona lives a few doors down from the state's most recent home invasion.

On Sunday, three people forced their way into a home on Concord Drive near Milford and assaulted a 63-year-old man inside, according to Delaware State Police. The victim was struck in the chest with a metal pole, officers said. The suspects got away without obtaining any money.

Delaware State Police investigated 48 reports of home invasions last year; 24 of them were in Sussex County, 14 in Kent County and 10 in New Castle County.

"They need to get hard with the people doing crime," said Ricardo Tijerino of Milford, a plumber completing work near the latest home invasion.

Criminals are typically charged with burglary or robbery for entering a home, and any other crime that may happen while inside.

When it comes to home invasions, the question is how tough to make the penalty and whether tougher penalties will deter crime.

A Kent County lawmaker introduced his own measure in January.

Criminals who commit violent crimes during a home invasion would face between 15 years to life in prison under a separate bill sponsored by state Sen. David Lawson, R-Marydel. The violent crimes include assault, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, rape and robbery. For the second offense, the suspect would face life in prison, according to the bill.

Lawson criticized Heffernan's bill as "watered down" and called it a rewritten version of state law governing burglary.

Lawson said his bill, which has Democrats and Republicans as co-sponsors, would make home invasion a class A felony and provide some "teeth" to the current law. The Republican said the punishment must fit the crime for something as serious as a home invasion.

Regardless of whether prison time deters criminals, Lawson said his bill would insure criminals are off the street for a longer period.

Heffernan called her 13-page proposal a comprehensive plan that would be easier for police to enforce and attorneys to prosecute. The lawmaker said she reached out to Lawson to work together on a proposal but he declined.

Lawson's proposal is expected to go into committee when the legislature returns to session. Heffernan plans to file her bill in the house next week.

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