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Delaware lawmakers approve first leg of constitutional amendment to reform bail system

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Delaware lawmakers on Sunday approved a proposed constitutional amendment under which criminal defendants other than those charged with murder could be held without bail.

The measure cleared the House on a 32-8 vote after passing the Senate unanimously last month. It is the first leg of a constitutional amendment that must also receive two-thirds approval by both chambers in the next General Assembly.

House members also gave final approval to companion legislation listing certain felony offenses for which a court could deny bail under certain circumstances, including when there is a fair likelihood of conviction because “the proof is positive or the presumption great.” There also would have to be “clear and convincing” proof that no conditions other than pretrial detention could reasonably assure the offender’s appearance in court when required and the safety of any other person or the community.

Supporters say the measures are aimed at balancing the rights of criminal defendants with the need to protect public safety while moving Delaware away from a cash bail system.

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