Delaware drug law overhaul passes State Senate

Delaware drug sentencing laws are one step closer to being overhauled, with the goal of bringing more consistency and fairness to drug crimes in the criminal justice system. 

A minor amendment was attached to the Senate version and sent back to the House for consideration in Dover by a vote of 16-4.  Simple possession of drugs would be made a misdemeanor crime. 

Also, the minimum mandatory sentences for drug felonies would be capped at two years.  Currently sentences may range from three to five years, and in some cases up to 15 years. 

Prosecutors, defense attorneys and police were on-board with the changes, believing they make a clear distinction between drug trafficking and drug possession.  Crimes would be divided into three main categories:  possession, drug dealing, and aggravated possession, or possession of large amounts of drugs which would indicate drug dealing. 

Supporters of the changes say they restore more discretion for judges, who could take aggravating circumstances into account when handing down a drug sentence.

The measure also sets a distance of 300 feet from a school, church or park within which drug possession charges can apply.  Previously, the distance was 1,000 feet for schools and 300 feet for churches and parks.

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