Del. lawmakers introduce bail reform legislation
DOVER, Del. – Some Delaware lawmakers are fighting for bail reform by repealing a bill that just went into effect last year. On Tuesday, Senator Colin Bonini and Representative Steve Smyk introduced legislation to repeal House Bill 204. They say the bill, which went into effect in 2018, has proven to be ineffective. 47 ABC spoke to some members of the law enforcement community who agree. But others believe repealing the bill would go against the principle “innocent until proven guilty”.
“The clerk at Wawa shouldn’t have to worry about being robbed by the same guy later that night because he was released after robbing him that night,” says Jeffrey Horvath, the executive director of the Delaware Police Chiefs’ Council. “One of the complaints I’ve heard since the new bail reform has come out is that a lot of people are being arrested for very serious offenses and very few of them are going to jail pending trial or not even being required to post a bond.”
This legislation is designed to fix what some lawmakers are calling flaws in the new system. “I’ve talked to numerous police chiefs in Kent and Sussex County who are not happy with this specifically the chief of Selbyville and chief of Dover,” says Horvath.
House Bill 204 was designed to decrease the use of monetary bail while releasing more defendants from jail who are awaiting trial. But critics say that hasn’t been the case. “My phone is inundated every night with $500 bail calls, $250 bail calls,” says Christina Brigandi, a bail bondsman for 1st Choice Bail Bonds.
Supporters say this new legislation would fix a loophole that House Bill 204 created which essentially let violent or repeat offenders back out onto the street. “When these people don’t return back to court it falls on our local police officers to be back out on the streets taking in capiases,” says Brigandi.
However, some supporters of HB 204 say it embodies the principle “innocent until proven guilty”. “Some people view a person getting arrested for an offense and then sitting in jail pending trial they are already being punished for something they haven’t been found guilty of,” says Horvath.
While critics may not support the new system, they tell 47 ABC there has to be a better way to go about bail reform. “I think the system can be tweaked where a lot of people can feel safer and people maybe that aren’t a threat to public safety won’t be sitting in jail for a pending crime just because they couldn’t come up with $500,” says Horvath.
Supporters also tell 47 ABC repealing House Bill 204 would create more protections for victims who could be targeted more than once by the same person if they are let out on bail.
Lawmakers are urging residents to contact their representatives and let them know what they think about repealing House Bill 204.