Gov. John Carney signed eight criminal and racial justice-related bills into law on Monday, ending a more than a year of wrangling over how to enact reforms.
Officials who are responsible for the law changes, including Carney and members of the Legislative Black Caucus, hailed them as meaningful changes to the state's criminal justice system to protect people of color from unfair treatment by authorities.
Some of the law changes were part of an eight-item agenda that Democrats unveiled in June 2020 after a wave of peaceful protests in Wilmington and Dover turned violent in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis.
"This has been an incredibly productive session for the General Assembly on making meaningful change to criminal justice reforms," Carney said in a statement.
But Democrats have yet to fulfill what is likely their constituents' most desired criminal justice-related wish to change the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights so that police are more susceptible to public scrutiny.
The Officers' Bill of Rights is a section of state law that lets police decide how to discipline bad-acting officers and limits how much the public can know about any punishment.
Progressive Democrats pushed a bill over the summer to allow more public access to the disciplinary process, but it didn't go far due to pushback from police.
That bill is doubly controversial because it would also let state and local governments create civilian review boards, made up of non-officers, to hear and have a say in police discipline.
Supporters of the bill plan to push it again next year when lawmakers are back in session.
House Bill 115 by Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha, a Democrat from Wilmington, prohibits prosecution of children under 12, except for the most serious charges. It also prohibits transferring juveniles under 16 to Superior Court.
House Bill 215 by Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown, a Democrat from New Castle, requires police to record interrogations of suspects in custody. The recordings would not be accessible to the public.
House Bill 162 by Minor-Brown creates a competitive grant fund to help reduce juvenile recidivism, which includes $500,000 off the bat for cognitive behavioral therapy and vocational training.
House Bill 243 by Rep. Franklin Cooke, a Democrat from New Castle, bars police from releasing juvenile mug shots for minor crimes. It would apply to mug shots of children 17 years old or younger, and mug shots could still be published if the juvenile is charged with a violent felony and the mug shot is necessary to protect
the public’s safety.
Senate Bill 148 by Sen. Marie Pinkney, a Democrat from New Castle, lets the state-run Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust review police use-of-force cases that result in serious physical injury. Before, the division could only review deadly force cases. The division can also now report the race of people involved in use-of-force cases and whether it played a role.
Senate Bill 111 by Sen. Darius Brown, a Democrat from Wilmington, automates Delaware's expungement process so that people don't have to file a petition with the state. More than 290,000 adults are expected to benefit immediately from the automation, according to a press release about the bill.
Senate Bill 112 by Brown expands eligibility for mandatory expungement to include possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia, underage possession, consumption of alcohol, and cases involving multiple violation convictions regardless of a person’s prior or subsequent criminal record.
Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 38 by Brown makes technical revisions to the 2019 Adult Expungement Reform Act.