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Delaware Docket Newsletter

JUSTICE OF THE PEACE INTITATES NEW PROSECUTION
PROCESS FOR TRAFFIC AND MINOR CRIMINAL CASES

A new process for prosecuting minor traffic and criminal cases being phased into different locations of the Justice of the Peace Court is saving time and money for defendants, police agencies, and others. Prior to the initiation of this process, traffic defendants hoping to obtain a plea bargain in their case typically had to appear in court twice: first at arraignment in the Justice of the Peace Court and then at trial in either the Justice of the Peace Court or Court of Common Pleas (if the defendant elected to transfer the case to that Court). Under the new procedure established by Chief Magistrate Alan G. Davis, in conjunction with police agencies, these cases can usually be resolved in one court appearance.

The new procedure provides for a call of the calendar with defendants given a set time and date to appear. Once in court, a senior member of the arresting police agency is available to discuss the charges with defendants and, when appropriate, can offer a plea agreement at this appearance. This saves the need to appear in court a second time. The new process, which began as a pilot project in Court 6 (Harrington) in June 2007, is now operating throughout Kent County (including, Courts 7 (Dover) and 8 (Smyrna) and Court 6), as well as in Sussex County in Courts 3 (Georgetown) and 4 (Seaford). The remaining Sussex County courts are expected to begin police prosecutions in the very near future. In New Castle County, Courts 9 (Middletown) and 11 (New Castle) have also begun operating with the new process with some police agencies, with additional New Castle County Police troops’ participation expected to begin soon.

Before participating in the police prosecution process, a police agency informs the State Prosecutor at the Department of Justice of the agency’s desire to participate. If the State Prosecutor deems an agency’s participation appropriate, a letter of authority is issued to the police agency permitting its senior officers to act as prosecutors in the Justice of the Peace Court for this purpose.

The process is already reducing costs, improving efficiency, and eliminating duplicative efforts for the Justice of the Peace Court, the Court of Common Pleas, and for participating police departments, as well as enhancing public safety by relieving road officers from attendance at most court hearings. It also saves time for the Office of the Attorney General by reducing the number of traffic cases they need to handle in the Court of Common Pleas, thus giving them additional time to address more serious cases. Defendants also benefit by being able to resolve their cases in a single court appearance.

For further information, contact Marianne Kennedy.

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