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Politics & Government

Bail reform measure clears State Senate

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Delaware Public Media
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The state Senate passes bail reform aimed at those charged with some violent crimes and possessing firearms.

The legislation would set mandatory bail for those charged with some violent felonies, and they would lose possession of their firearms until the case is resolved.

Some Republicans questioned language saying the firearms would be forfeited, while amendment sponsor Sen. Stephanie Hansen (D-Middletown) described it as relinquishing. Hansen says in this case the words are interchangeable, and the Republicans supported her amendment.

State Sen. Colin Bonini (R-Dover South) was one of two no votes – along with State Sen. Marie Pinkney (D-New Castle).  He says an over-aggressive and vindictive Attorney General could use this legislation improperly.

"We're going to restrict people's rights based on what administrative people in an elected office choose to charge?" asked Bonini during floor debate. "And I'm not saying this is going to happen, but if you're somebody that politically it would look better if you're remanded you're going to get charged with something you're going to get remanded for."

Bonini also suggests the older system would be better.

"Lots of folks in the judiciary didn't want to assign bail and particularly didn't want to assign high bail because of pressure for lack of a better word to do so," said Bonini, "So my take is we should just go back to that system prior."

He plans to introduce his own bail reform legislation.

Sen. Majority Leader Bryan Townsend (D-Newark) supports the bill, and criticizes Bonini’s suggestion.

"He has concerns about taking away people's rights, but he admittedly says that he's going to bring a bill forward that he's tried to bring forward before that would take us back to the way the system was before," said Townsend. "I don't understand how someone could hold those two views at the same time."

Some Democrats supporting the measure said it’s not perfect, but a good start especially in protecting domestic abuse victims.

The bill now heads to the House.

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