Taking steps to protect Delaware’s most vulnerable residents and add protections for seniors, House Majority Whip Rep. Valerie J. Longhurst and Attorney General Beau Biden unveiled legislation on Tuesday that would create enhanced penalties for those who commit crimes against a vulnerable or infirm adult.

House Bill 348 would increase the penalties for more than 60 offenses if those crimes are committed against someone determined to be a vulnerable or infirm adult. In most cases, the
charges would increased by one class, such as a class A misdemeanor becoming a class G felony, a class G felony becoming a class F felony, and so on. Class A and B felonies would remain the same grade, but the minimum sentence of imprisonment required by law for the offense would be doubled.

“People who have physical or mental limitations or disabilities face a much greater risk of someone taking advantage of them,” said Rep. Longhurst, D-Bear. “No one should have to live
in fear of being targeted because of their personal situation. Those who commit these crimes are just preying on the vulnerable, and they should face tougher punishment.

“It’s my hope that these new penalties serve as a warning to people that we aren’t going to tolerate this and that the enhanced penalties protect our vulnerable and elderly populations.”
HB 348 creates a new criminal offense, crime against the vulnerable or infirm, which imposes enhanced penalties for 61 offenses, including reckless endangering, assault, abuse of a pregnant female, terroristic threatening, unlawful sexual contact, fraud, rape, robbery, burglary, identity theft and forgery.

Attorney General Biden said that the new law would provide protection to a segment of Delaware’s population that has never before benefited from added safeguards under the law: the vulnerable adult. A vulnerable adult is particularly susceptible to being victimized by criminals, and is defined as anyone over 18 years of age who due to coercion, intimidation, fear or dependency, or by reason of mental or physical limitations, or mental illness or disability, can be influenced to act in a manner inconsistent with the person’s own interests regarding his or her own person or property.

Infirm adults have been previously defined under Delaware law as individuals who are 18 years of age or older who because of a physical or mental disability are substantially impaired in the
ability to provide adequately for their own care and custody.

“Crimes against vulnerable Delawareans are particularly reprehensible,” Attorney General Biden said. “Armed with this statute, we will continue to seek more stringent penalties against those
who prey on those who cannot protect themselves.”

Susan Del Pesco, director the state Division of Long Term Care Residents Protection, helped craft the legislation. A retired Superior Court judge, she said vulnerable adults are individuals
who, because of intimidation, fear or dependency, become prey to others.

“Vulnerable adults are provided extra protection by increasing the criminal penalty when they are the victims of a wide range of crimes,” Judge Del Pesco said. “Our criminal code currently
provides increased penalties for a number of crimes, such as felony theft and first-degree burglary, but Rep. Longhurst recognized that there are many other crimes for which an increased penalty is not available. This statute represents a comprehensive review of the criminal code in order to provide stronger penalties across the board when vulnerable adults are the victims of crime.”

The bill, which was filed on Wednesday, has 12 co-sponsors in the House. Sen. Bethany Hall-Long, D-Middletown, is the prime Senate sponsor of the legislation.

“As a senator and a nurse, I am very pleased to sponsor this critical legislation that will help to safeguard those in our state who most deserve our care and attention,” Sen. Hall-Long said.

“Unfortunately, vulnerable adults can frequently become targets for exploitation – either physical, mental or financial. By passing this important legislation and raising these penalties we
protect the most at-risk in our communities.”

House Bill 348 has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.


Biden secures closure of Harrington nuisance property

For the residents of Harrington, 1 New Street has been the site of constant drug andweapons activity over a period of several years. During the past three years, the Harrington Police

Department has received at least 58 complaints of illegal activity occurring on the site, including

numerous reports of illegal drug transactions in an open air drug market. Since 2005, four search

warrants were executed on the property as a result of drug and weapons investigations by police.

Searches and undercover purchases yielded drugs, weapons, and money used in the illegal


That all changed today, when Deputy Attorney General Dan Logan concluded a nuisance

abatement action against the property. Since 2007, the Attorney General’s office has been utilizing

Delaware’s Drug Nuisance and Social Vices Abatement Act to close down properties associated with

illegal drug sales. Today, at the request of the Delaware Department of Justice, Kent County Superior

Court President Judge James T. Vaughn, Jr. ordered that the Harrington property be closed to all but a

limited number of specific individuals who currently live on-site. Those allowed to remain on the

premises were ordered to comply with the abatement order and to report any suspected future drug

activity to police.

In addition to the work done by Deputy Attorney General Logan, Attorney General Biden

singled out the work of the Harrington Police Department for its active involvement in the

investigation and the enforcement action. Biden said, “Just as we do in criminal prosecutions, the

Department of Justice will continue to use every statute and remedy at our disposal, including the

Nuisance Abatement Act, to better Delaware’s communities by removing drug dealing and other crime

from our neighborhoods.”

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Markell showing their support, Rep. Michael A. Barbieri and other lawmakers unveiled

legislation that would strengthen protection from abuse orders (PFAs) by extending PFA “no

contact” provisions and setting circumstances under which these provisions can be extended for


House Bill 336 would allow the Family Court to extend the “no contact” provisions of a PFA

from its current one-year limit to two years in every case. In cases where aggravating

circumstances exist, the bill would give the court discretion to order no contact for as long as

deemed necessary.

“Women who have suffered domestic violence have already lived through a nightmare,”

Attorney General Biden said. “Requiring them to reapply for legal protection is an unnecessary

hardship. This legislation lifts a heavy burden off of their shoulders so they can move on with

their lives.”

Rep. Barbieri, D-Newark, noted that there are no permanent restraining orders in Delaware. The

legislation, he said, would add that option for cases in which Family Court determines there is a

need for such an order.

“One of government’s most important functions is to protect our vulnerable citizens. People who

suffer from abuse often struggle with esteem issues and find themselves trapped in an untenable

situation,” Rep. Barbieri said. “The current system puts the burden of requesting an extension on

the person who is struggling, and that only aggravates the situation.

“This legislation will allow our courts to determine if a more long-term order is warranted, which

removes the stress from the person seeking the protective order. We will be better able to protect

our most vulnerable citizens while making the system less cumbersome.”

Under current law, PFAs may be granted for up to one year. After that initial period, the victim

may petition the court for a six-month extension. After the extension expires, the victim must

apply for a new PFA and show that they have suffered additional harm. House Bill 336 would

change current law in two important ways:

1) It would extend the initial maximum duration of most PFAs from one year to two years;

2) In cases where abuse is most egregious, including where a deadly weapon is used, prior

protective orders continue to be violated, and/or the court believes there is ongoing and

immediate danger, it would allow the no-contact provision of PFAs to remain effective

throughout the victim’s lifetime.

“No one should need to live in fear,” Governor Markell said. “We want anyone who labors under

the threat of violence to be able to get the protective order they need, for as long as it needs to be

in place. This policy is designed to provide at least a small measure of comfort to those at risk

and additional peace of mind to those in desperate need of it.”

Eileen Williams, coordinator of the Kent County Domestic Violence Advocacy Program, works

directly with abuse victims and said that the legislation would go a long way toward alleviating

pressure and problems victims face after the court process ends.

“I have seen cases where an abuser begins harassment the day after a PFA expires,” Ms.

Williams said. “I have seen other instances where the abuse continues for seven years.

Fortunately, these cases are few, but even one case is too many when you consider what these

victims go through. This legislation is beneficial so that a victim doesn’t have to come back to

court hoping that the court will approve a new PFA.”

House Bill 336 is co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Sen. Patricia M. Blevins, D-Elsmere,

Rep. Deborah D. Hudson, R-Fairthorne, and Senate Minority Whip Sen. Liane M. Sorenson, RHockessin.

“Expanding the Family Court’s ability to protect victims of domestic violence by extending

protection orders is an important step toward helping those victims rebuild their lives,” said Sen.

Blevins, the bill’s chief Senate sponsor. “We need laws like this to send a strong message that

we’ll do everything we can to protect victims of domestic violence from further abuse.”

HB 336 was drafted by the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council. It has been assigned to the

House Judiciary Committee.


With Delaware Attorney General Joseph R. “Beau” Biden III and Governor Jack A.

Delaware’s consumers to benefit from legislation approved by House committee

Legislation that won approval Wednesday from a House committee will increase



protections for consumers, Attorney General Beau Biden said.

House Bill 247, sponsored by Representative Helene Keeley and Senator David McBride,

would give the Department’s Consumer Protection Unit more power to stand up for consumers.

Specifically, the Director of Consumer Protection would be authorized to hold hearings, issue rulings,

and impose fines on individuals or companies that defraud consumers. This enhanced enforcement

process is intended to speed up the time it takes to resolve consumer complaints. HB 247 was

approved this afternoon following a hearing by the House Judiciary Committee.

“Standing up for Delaware consumers is one of the main roles of the Attorney General’s

Office,” Biden said. “Just last week we conducted seminars across the state, as part of Consumer

Protection Week, to help educate Delawareans and help them protect themselves. This legislation helps

us crack down on those seeking to trick Delawareans out of their hard-earned money. I want to thank

Representative Keeley and Senator McBride for helping us to strengthen the protections we can


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Biden calls for financial restitution for victims of child pornography

Attorney General Beau Biden today unveiled legislation designed to obtain
justice for victims of child pornography. Senate Bill 158, drafted by the Delaware Department of

Justice and introduced by Senators Karen Peterson and Bethany Hall-Long, extends financial liability

to producers and possessors of child pornography and sets specific damages available to victims.

“Child pornographers are child predators,” Attorney General Biden stated. “Over the past

three years we have taken strong action to identify predators and hold them criminally accountable

with tough new minimum mandatory jail terms. Now we’re going to hold predators financially

accountable. We know there are defendants who have financial resources and this legislation gives

victims and their families the clear legal right and opportunity to recover financially from defendants.

I hope the Legislature passes this quickly, as it is one more effort to support victims along their

healing process and to deter would-be predators.”

“Few things are more repugnant than exploiting children and using them in pornography,”

said Sen. Karen Peterson, D-Stanton, the bill’s sponsor. “This bill won’t cure the damage that using

children in such a way causes, but it is an important weapon in our battle against child pornographers

because it will hit the people who make and view child porn in the wallet and will reinforce our

message that they aren’t welcome in Delaware.”

Specifically, Senate Bill 158:

extends liability under Delaware civil law to those who knowingly possess, finance, orproduce child pornographic images

creates the presumption that victims are injured, sparing them and their families from theburden of proving specific damages in court

entitles victims to damages of at least $150,000•

extends the statute of limitations from two to three years from notification of the victim bylaw enforcement of their victimization, the conclusion of a criminal prosecution against the

defendant, or the victim reaching the age of 18, whichever comes later

permits the court to award attorney’s fees and costs to the victim”I am proud to have been one of the lead sponsors of this bill and to help Delaware’s children

and families who have been exploited by child pornography,” said Sen. Bethany Hall-Long, DNewark

South, who co-sponsored the bill with Peterson. “While we can’t undo the trauma these

families have had to face, we can ensure that they are well served by our justice system, that those

who create or circulate these images are held accountable, and that we send a strong message to all

that in Delaware we work to protect our children in every way.”

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