Delaware drivers charged with misdemeanor DUI, a first or second offense, will now receive only a single opportunity for a criminal trial, as a result of the general assembly’s June passage of legislation that addressed a provision in Delaware law allowing DUI defendants who were convicted in Justice of the Peace Court to have their case retried on the merits in the Court of Common Pleas.
The legislation, House Bill 207, was signed by Gov. John Carney on June 30 and took effect immediately.
Under the new law, Justice of the Peace Court will be able to accept guilty pleas in DUI cases, but only the Court of Common Pleas will be able to hear trials for those defendants who choose to go to trial. This change, advocated by the Department of Justice and the judiciary, streamlines the criminal justice system, provides consistency in the disposition of these serious offenses and alleviates the impact of multiple trials on civilian witnesses, police and prosecutors. These efficiencies will allow police and prosecutors to focus on preventing and prosecuting other crimes.
“The passage of this law was important for two reasons,” said Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn. “The first was justice. Everyone is entitled to a trial, but there should not be a special group of defendants who are entitled to two trials. The second reason was effective use of the criminal justice system’s resources. With the passage of this bill, DUI offenders will treated consistently, and police officers, prosecutors, and witnesses will be freed of the burden of multiple trials. Police, prosecutors and DOJ staff will be able to dedicate their attention to other cases at a time when government services are short staffed, and police officers will be able to get back on the road and prevent other crimes.”
Denn expressed his gratitude to the legislative sponsors of the bill, Rep. Helene Keeley, Sens. Margaret Rose Henry and Ernie Lopez, State Prosecutor Sean Lugg and Deputy Attorney General Danielle Brennan, for their work in getting the bill passed.