A recently drafted bill not only makes home invasion a criminal offense, but also, if passed, would establish stiff penalties for criminals who knowingly enter occupied homes with the intent to commit a violent crime.
Currently, home invasions are categorized as burglaries, a class C felony that carries a minimum two-year prison sentence. This bill would make home invasions a class B felony and doubles the minimum prison time for a first offense. Also, penalties would increase if the crime is a repeat offense or when the victims are seniors, defined as anyone over the age of 62.
“We’re hopeful that the tough penalties in this legislation reflect how seriously… we take these crimes, and will make offenders think twice before they threaten the peace and security of our families in our neighborhoods,” said Attorney General Beau Biden during a news conference Thursday afternoon.
“It seems that almost weekly, we see in the newspaper accounts of violent home invasion both nationally and more recently within our state’s peaceful communities,” said state Rep. Debra Heffernan, D-Bellefonte, Claymont, Edgemoor, the bill’s primary sponsor.
Biden confirms the state has seen an uptick in the number of home invasions, particularly downstate, but says his office can’t attribute the trend to any one thing. “That’s one of the reasons why we’re addressing it now with sending a strong message that you’re gonna go away to jail for a long time if you do this.”
According to DSP, there were nearly 50 home invasions last year, 10 in New Castle County, 14 in Kent County and 24 in Sussex County. The state’s most recent home invasion occurred late Sunday night in Milford. The victim was a 63-year-old man, who according to police, was hit in the chest with a metal pole.
“This would fall squarely under the statute,” said Biden. “It’s unfortunately a needed… tweak in our current statutory structure to meet an increase in the amount of home invasions that are happening too often.”
“I’m usually slightly reluctant to increase minimum mandatory sentences” said the bill’s prime state senate sponsor, Sen. Harris McDowell, D-Wilmington North. “But… the idea that thugs would suddenly burst down your front door and then charge into your home, which is what happens in home invasion, it brings people to mind that there’s an immediate and direct threat to their lives and not just their property… And so I think we are justified in this instance.”
The bill will be filed in the state House of Representatives next week.