Delaware Criminal Law: An Overview
Are you facing criminal charges and potential jail time? If so, it’s good to have a general idea of how the criminal justice system works in the state of Delaware. Now, let’s take a closer look at the state’s crime classifications.
What Are the Different Levels of Criminal Charges?
The state of Delaware has three crime classifications. In order of least severe to most serious, they are:
Misdemeanors and felonies are further divided into subcategories based on the level of severity within the category. Violations like minor traffic offenses, noise complaints, and off-leash dogs typically involve a fine, and in some cases, probation.
This category includes some traffic violations such as traffic tickets, as well as certain lower-level drug crimes. Under state law, most misdemeanors will either be defined as a Class A or a Class B offense. However, some crimes remain uncategorized.
Punishments for conviction are often determined by class designation. Class A misdemeanors are the most severe. Penalties may include a fine of up to $2,300, up to one year of jail time, and possible restitution.
Penalties for Class B misdemeanors, such as prostitution, may include a fine of up to $1,150, possible restitution, and up to six months behind bars.
What Are the Potential Penalties for Felonies?
Felonies are divided by seven categories ranging from Class A (the most violent crimes, including first-degree murder) to Class G (the least severe felony charge). Penalties may include at least one year of prison, heavy fines, probation, and more.
All felonies stay on your permanent record and could jeopardize future employment, education, and housing opportunities.
What About Marijuana?
Marijuana is decriminalized in Delaware, but not legal. It is a confusing distinction, so what does this mean?
You are legally allowed to have up to one ounce without penalty. If caught smoking weed in public, you’ll have a $100 civil fine to deal with. The state does allow for the use of medical marijuana for certain medical conditions. Registered patients can possess up to six ounces for medicinal use.
Anyone driving while drunk or under the influence of drugs can be arrested on a DUI charge. Delaware has an implied consent law, which means that refusing to take the breath test will lead to mandatory license suspension of one year – and that’s on the first refusal.
Anyone caught driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .08% or higher can be charged with a DUI. If someone has prior offenses on their record, the penalties increase.
- First offense: A fine ranging from $500-$1,500, a jail sentence of up to one year, or both, as well as a period of license suspension
- Second offense: A fine ranging from $750-$2,500, a jail sentence of 60 days to 18 months, and a period of license suspension
- Third offense: A fine of not more than $5,000, a jail sentence of one to two years, and a period of license suspension
Penalties increase in severity for any DUI arrests and convictions from this point on.
Courts also may order convicted offenders to install an Ignition Interlock System on their car, as well as mandate the completion of an alcohol evaluation and, possibly, inpatient treatment.
What to Look for in a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Here are a few key factors to keep in mind when searching for a criminal defense attorney:
- Does the law firm offer a free consultation? You may want to schedule a few initial consultations with different criminal defense attorneys.
- Do they have experience with criminal offenses like yours? You can find out by researching the practice areas offered by the law offices you are considering.
- How many years of experience do they have?
- Do they have experience as trial lawyers?
While many experienced attorneys know how to negotiate a plea bargain in criminal cases and resolve them without going to trial, it’s still a good idea to be prepared.
It is Important to Educate Yourself
It’s important to learn all you can about Delaware’s criminal justice system when you or a loved one have been accused of a crime and are facing criminal charges. By doing so, you can better prepare yourself for whatever lies ahead.