New Bail Reform Rules in Delaware – Where Will This Head?

Following a legislative mandate to move from a cash bail system to one that determines whether arrestees should be released pending trial, the state of Delaware is moving to implement that risk-assessment tool in the coming months. The new rule is set to take effect officially on Jan. 1, 2019. This is referred to as an “interim rule” by those involved. Noted Superior Court President Judge Jan R. Jurden:

“The interim rule is a product of a collaborative effort of all of the courts involved with making bail decisions. This is an important reform and we look forward to working with our system partners as we implement this improved approach to pretrial release.”

Last June, lawmakers in Delaware fell just short of implementing a new law that would eliminate cash bail altogether and allow for the holding of violent arrestees without the possibility of bail. But the law that had passed earlier called for the use of pretrial assessment tools. In Delaware, that tools is referred to as the “Delaware Pretrial Assessment Tool,” or “DELPAT” for short. Noted Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Leo E. Strine, Jr.:

“The rule represents a good faith effort to implement the act in an efficient and equitable manner by the deadline the act imposes. The judiciary and its constituents must now pull together to make the act and the rule work as well as possible, and to improve it further based on the experience we gain during the next year.”

Despite the move, there is no clear direction on where the state is headed with regards to broader bail reform. To pass, a constitutional amendment to eliminate cash bail must pass two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly by a two-thirds majority. The result is that the earliest that such an amendment would be created would be 2021.