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Delaware adds more criminal justice protections for juveniles

Delaware Public Media
Gov. John Carney

Delaware teens now have additional protections in the criminal justice system.

Gov. John Carney signed legislation last week reducing the possibility minors who break the law continue to re-offend. The three measures addressing juveniles in the criminal justice system.

One bill, sponsored by State Rep. Debra Heffernan, expands the civil citation program. That allows teenagers who commit certain misdemeanors like possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia to avoid having a criminal record.

It also makes teens who already received a civil citation eligible for a second one. But Heffernan said it applies only if they commit a different offense and more than 18 months have passed.

“The real thing is that it is designed so that like one you know small infraction doesn’t ruin a kid’s life and put them into the system, which could then make them more likely to reoffend,” she said.

Rep. James Johnson sponsored another piece of legislation that lets Superior Court judges transfer older teens charged as adults back to Family Court. He says he hopes to point kids away from crime.

“We listened to a lot of agencies and we listened to some offenders that we caught up in the system," he said. "And we felt that these bills would help address recidivism.”

The third measure establishes a juvenile’s right to a lawyer in family court. The bill requires the minor to meet in person with a lawyer before being able to waive the right.

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