AG Biden wants to amend Delaware Constitution

The constitutional amendment would expand the state’s ability to hold suspects without bail.

Delaware’s constitution currently only allows suspects to be held without bail if they are accused of a capital offense.  Back when the constitution was written, there were a number of crimes that were eligible for the death penalty, and therefore more suspects were eligible to be held without bail.  These days, it’s only those accused of murder who can be held without bail.

A bill amending the constitution is now up for debate in the General Assembly.  “I think this is a good hard look at some opportunities we have to modernize our constitution,” says Senate President Pro Tem Anthony DeLuca, D-Varlano.  “It will not be without controversy, but we’ll get it through.”  

He says the way it works now, if prosecutors want to hold someone until trial, they have to set bail so high the defendant can’t pay.  “It shouldn’t be justice for people that have enough money to make bail and no justice for the people that don’t have the money.”

Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden is a supporter of the change.  He says framers of the state’s constitution did not intend to restrict the ability to hold suspects without bail to just murder.  “This isn’t just to harmonize with the U.S. Constitution.  It’s to harmonize to reflect the original intent of the framers of our constitution which allowed for a much broader swath of criminal conduct to be captured as capital offenses.”

If approved by the General Assembly before the end of this year’s session on June 30, the amendment would still have to be approved in the next session which starts in January.  That all has to happen before legislators could vote on legislation to specifically detail which offenses defendants could be held without bail.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.