Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden (Photo: WBOC)
DOVER, Del.- Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden says the state's bail system is too easy on some very serious crimes. And Thursday he renewed a push to change that.
Biden, along with state lawmakers, is re-introducing a proposed amendment to the state's constitution that would expand the kinds of crimes for which someone could be held without bail.
The state's constitution allows for no bail on capital crimes. At one point a number of different crimes were considered capital. But today it's just one - capital murder.
And Biden says the bail system needs "sharper teeth." He says this is about protecting the public and thinks Delaware needs to return to the state constitution's original intent on suspects that could be held without bond.
"And that is there could be could be certain crimes other than capital murder for which we could seek and ask a judge - if they agree with us - to detain someone who is a danger to the community from the moment we've arrested them to the moment we put their case before a court."
"You are presumed innocent," said Alex Funk, a defense attorney in Dover. "When you go to trial on those charges, the jury is told to presume the defendant is innocent. If that individual is being held without bail, what's that saying? It's conveying something a whole lot different from presumption of innocence. It's conveying presumption of guilt.
Funk defends clients accused of many things, up to and including capital murder. He describes Biden's proposal with two phrases: "It's highly excessive. It's not needed."
Funk said bail is not a get out of jail free card. A judge can set a very high bond on a wide variety of serious crimes to keep someone locked up.
"For the average person, they're not going to be able to post that bond anyway."
But the attorney general's office says that just means rich people, who can post a high amount, get a different version of justice. And Biden says while his proposal gives the opportunity for no bond, it's not a definite.
"It means we can ask for it," he said. "It doesn't mean the judge is always going to grant it and agree with us."
Biden has tried to get this amendment passed twice since taking office, both times unsuccessfully. He says he's more hopeful with the current General Assembly. But, because this is a constitutional amendment, even if it gets the green light this time around, it would still be a few years before the bail system would change.
Along with the amendment, Biden also proposed a new law that would revoke a suspect's bond if, while out on bail for a previous offense, that suspect is arrested for a violent felony. He says since it could take a long time for an amendment to go through, this is something Delaware lawmakers can do now to strengthen the bail system. The full legislature goes back into session next month.