Delaware Republicans Propose Repealing 2018 Bail Reform Law

A Delaware Superior Court judge's gavel.

DOVER, Del.- Republican lawmakers in Delaware have proposed rolling back changes from a 2018 bail reform law, citing a number of cases involving offenders they say have been charged with serious crimes after being arrested and released without bail on prior offenses.

A planned Senate bill would repeal the changes to Delaware's bail statute under the law introduced and passed in 2018 as House Bill 204, a piece of legislation proposed by supporters with the intent of reducing courts' reliance on using cash bail and other monetary measures to ensure defendants show up for trial.

Sen. Colin Bonini (R-Magnolia) and supporters of the legislation said in a Monday news conference their as-of-yet-unnumbered Senate bill was prompted by incidents across the state involving people being charged with a serious and sometimes violent crime but then released on their own recognizance without bail, only to face a subsequent arrest.

Among those incidents was the June arrest of Nathaniel Hampton. Dover police said in a news release Hampton was charged with gun and drug offenses but was out on unsecured bond at the time following a prior arrest in January. Authorities said Hampton in January had been arrested after he pistol-whipped a woman in the head and nearly shot her.

"We are creating more victims in Delaware," he said.

Bonini's proposal would repeal a requirement that judges consider the results of a pretrial risk assessment before setting bail and conditions of release. The assessment is based on a matrix implemented by Delaware courts that considers things like a defendant's criminal history and other factors to determine the risk factor associated with that person's release.

"We are letting people out without bail when a lot of those people probably should have to post bail or potentially be retained because they're potentially dangerous and I think there are too many people being released," he said in an interview.

The planned legislation has the backing of leaders from numerous law enforcement agencies and people involved in the bail bond industry.

Fred Calhoun, president of the Delaware Fraternal Order of Police, said law enforcement officers across the state are frustrated because victims of crimes do not feel safe after a suspect's arrest.

"When we go out there, we try to do the right thing and then these things go south and this person is released for whatever reason with no real explanation to the victim. That's a problem," he said.

A draft copy of the legislation made available on Tuesday did not show any Democratic lawmakers as co-sponsors of the bill.

Rep. Sean Lynn (D-Dover) said he would be opposed to the legislation and believes the bail reform law has benefited people who have been charged with minor crimes and cannot afford bail.

"What you're not seeing is the dozens and hundreds of people who are not out on bail and are able to maintain their family and hold down jobs and avoid the sort-of-economic death sentence that imperils poor people who are affected by cash bail," he said.

Recommended for you