Purpose clauses, 2016

  • No clause

  • Parens patriae

  • Due process era

  • Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ)

  • Developmental Approach

Delaware's purpose clause has been in place since 1971, and aligns with parens patriae language found in the Standard Juvenile Court Act (1959).

10 DE ST §902

Intake and diversion, 2016

Initial intake and court diversion decision is at the discretion of the prosecutor.

In Delaware, upon apprehension, law enforcement must bring the child directly before the family court (or designated official when not in session) and submit a sworn complaint of delinquency. The judge/official may release or detain the child and files the delinquency petition. Petitions for delinquency can be directly filed by any person without a pre-screening process, so pre-petition diversion by the court may not be possible for all youth except by local rule. Youth may be referred to arbitration or other court-approved diversion programs by the DA. A child under age 10 may be required to participate in a diversion program once deemed competent, but if over age 10, consent of the DA and youth is required for diversion decisions.

After a petition is filed, unless detained, the court may stay a declaration of delinquency and defer proceedings pending adjudication after accepting an admission or plea of nolo contender to an act of delinquency. When the state prosecutor agrees (DA), youth can be referred for ‘probation without adjudication’, a diversion program, or detention alternative program that may include secure or non-secure placements (at times) in accordance with the Committee on Dispositional Guidelines for Juveniles recommendations. After a judge declares the juvenile delinquent, proceedings can be deferred (no time limit specified) while a juvenile participates in mental health or drug court, or any other disposition or election in lieu of trial (for some DUI’s). The juvenile may be discharged from jurisdiction or the petition dismissed upon successful completion of the program.

No statutory time limit/s for court diversions exist.

In Delaware, court diversion time limits are not specified in statute.

Courtroom shackling, 2015

No statewide restriction

A Delaware law (HB 211) has since been signed by the governor on 9/6/16, affecting 10 Del.C. § 1007b.  The statutory section limits the use of shackles and other physical restraints on children appearing in juvenile delinquency proceedings except in situations where the court determines that the use of restraints is necessary and there are no less restrictive alternatives that will prevent flight or physical harm to the child or other courtroom participants.

Competency, 2015

Delaware has a statutory section related to juvenile competency, which aligns with the Dusky standard. Procedures include requirements for 6 month reviews and timeframes for dismissing certain allegations. The individualized bases for a finding that a child is not competent may include: “significant mental disorder or incapacity, significant developmental delay, significant cognitive impairment, and/or chronological immaturity.” A determination of competency is required to proceed with delinquency allegations regarding a child under age 10.

  • No juvenile standard

  • Juvenile standard is the adult standard

  • Juvenile justice standard exists

  • JJ standard includes developmental immaturity

Sex offender registration, 2015


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Juvenile Justice GPS (Geography, Policy, Practice, Statistics) is a project to develop a repository providing state policy makers and system stakeholders with a clear understanding of the juvenile justice landscape in the states.

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