Delaware Recodification Project
The Delaware General Assembly established the Criminal Justice Improvement Committee (CJIC) in 2014, and authorized it to suggest improvements to the State’s criminal justice system. The CJIC asked Professor Robinson and the CLRG to undertake a comprehensive review of Delaware’s substantive criminal law. The proposed criminal code and commentary are the result of this process.
Building on the foundation of Delaware’s criminal code of 1973 and drawing heavily on their domestic and international code drafting experience, Professor Robinson and the CLRG developed a modern and comprehensive criminal code for Delaware. The proposed code incorporates numerous cutting-edge innovations in drafting forms and code structure. It uses clear, accessible and consistent language; consolidates redundant, conflicting and verbose offenses; and offers a comprehensive, yet concise statement of all the rules governing criminal liability in Delaware. In addition, the proposed code preserves all (but only) reasonable policy decisions embodied in current law, and develops a rational and proportional grading system that recognizes all (but only) suitable distinctions between offenses.
The Delaware criminal code of 1973 was part of the “first wave” of American criminal law recodification efforts in the wake of the American Law Institute’s landmark Model Penal Code. While it represented a dramatic improvement over the law it replaced, its initial clarity and utility were greatly diminished by subsequent piecemeal legislation, as well as by the major shifts in societal norms that have occurred since its enactment four decades ago. The process of criminal code deterioration is not unique to Delaware and plagues other U.S. jurisdictions as well. The proposed code reverses this process by restoring Delaware criminal law’s functionality, and further modernizes it, enabling the law to keep abreast with twenty-first-century challenges and norms. Additionally, by illustrating how criminal law revitalization might be accomplished in Delaware, the proposed code may serve as a stimulus and a model for a “second wave” of American criminal law recodifications.