Bill to clarify sheriffs’ rights tabled in Delaware General Assembly

The sponsors of legislation to clarify the powers of Delaware’s three county sheriffs are tabling the legislation because of what they call “misinformation.”

The measure was introduced last week and had been scheduled for a hearing today (Wednesday) before the House Administration Committee in Dover.  It was sponsored by Representative Daniel Short (R-Seaford) and Senator Gary Simpson (R-Milford) in response to concerns from Sussex County, where the sheriff was seeking authority to detain individuals and conduct traffic stops.  Sussex County Council and an opinion from the Delaware Attorney General’s office concluded that sheriffs and deputies do not have the authority to make arrests. 

Short said he and Simpson had received numerous inquiries about the legislation to make it a part of the Delaware Code to limit the sheriffs’ powers.  According to Short, “there is a great deal of misinformation circulating regarding this measure.”  Co-sponsors of the bill have also discussed the possibility of formally asking the Delaware Supreme Court to make a determination as to whether sheriffs and deputies have any arrest authority under any provision of the State Constitution. 

Sussex County Council had passed a resolution in support of the bill.  “We cannot lose focus of the central issue in this whole debate – that is, do sheriffs and their deputies have arrest authority in Delaware,” Sussex County Council President Michael Vincent said.  “We agree with the Attorney General’s opinion that they do not.  However, Sussex County Council is committed to having the issue resolved once and for all, and if taking a step back on this legislation to seek further guidance is the most prudent way to go, then we will support that approach.”

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.