Dover Lawmakers Introduce Juvenile Reform Bills - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Dover Lawmakers Introduce Juvenile Reform Bills

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DOVER, Del. -- Democrats in the Delaware General Assembly have introduced a series of juvenile justice reform bills aimed at helping youth in the criminal justice system live successful lives after serving time.

The proposed reform legislation centers around helping reformed youth finish school, find jobs, and secure stable housing in Delaware, while still holding them accountable for their offenses.

“This package of bills is about doing right by Delaware’s children. The status quo needs adjustment, so we need to collaborate and work to pass meaningful criminal justice reform,” said Rep. David Bentz. “We need to adjust our current system so we are supporting youth and their families, not forcing them into a cycle of incarceration.”

Proposed House Bill 6 establishes a juvenile’s right to counsel in Family Court delinquency proceedings, as well as writes out the process by which they can waive the right to counsel. Under the bill, a waiver would not be permitted if the youth has not had an in-person meeting with an attorney to be informed of their right to counsel and the consequences of proceeding without an attorney.

Under House Bill 7, the age at which a juvenile’s information and photo can be released by the state is raised. The proposed bill also describes manner for publicly-managed social media pages in which juvenile mug shot and names are shared. The bill, however, does not apply to children who face charges as an adult in Superior Court.

HB 8 amends the program to add possession of marijuana paraphernalia to the list of offenses that lead to a citation, and allow a young person to be issued a second citation if the additional offense is not the same, and more than 18 months have passed since the first offense.

Proposed HB 9 updates existing Delaware law that allows Superior Court judges to have discretion to consider transferring certain youth age 15 or older initially charged as an adult back to Delaware’s Family Court system for final resolution and rehabilitative services. Offenses include rioting and wearing body armor during the commission of a felony.

House Bills 6, 7, 8 and 9 are being introduced in Wednesday’s pre-file. In 2016, the state was awarded $1 million in federal funding to develop a reform plan for Delaware's juvenile justice system. The proposed bills build on the state's effort to start and implement a reform plan following the General Assembly's last session work, in which lawmakers championed policies addressing the treatment of juveniles as they enter into the system and move through the judicial process. 

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