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Task force to address 'difficult' issue of bail reform for domestic violence crimes

Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s Supreme Court is creating a task force to consider reforming how bail gets set for people accused of domestic violence crimes. 

2018 bail reform legislation in Delaware sought to keep individuals out of jail before trial if they lacked the funds for bail and didn’t pose a threat to society.

The Delaware courts adopted a risk assessment instrument as part of that legislation which included a lethality assessment specifically for setting bail in domestic violence cases. 

Flaws in these interim rules have led to the creation of a new task force with the goal of setting new guidelines striking the balance between keeping victims safe and presuming the innocence of the accused. 

“I think it’s going to look at what happens with regards to bail reform and the interim rule that was put in place, and the difficulty that arose out of some confusion that this new rule was really not able to be used in the way that it was intended,” says Chief Magistrate Alan Davis.    

Davis says domestic violence, or DV, cases pose unique inherent challenges in that the crimes often don’t align with criminal history and the victims often take back the accused after the violent incident. 

“Sometimes you walk in and somebody has zero criminal history but they have a pretty significant charge against them in the DV context,” said Davis. “In addition, DV presents some issues in regard to how victims regard their perpetrator.”     

The new task force includes members of the judiciary, prosecutors, defense attorneys, victim advocates, and legislators.

The resulting recommendations may lead to new legislation or simply new policy changes in Delaware Courts. Recommendations are due September 1st.

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