Delaware Capital Punishment Laws

Capital punishment, also known as "the death penalty," remains a legal sentence under Delaware laws. But the death penalty in the First State has been under steady attack for many years. Supporters of ending capital punishment in Delaware have been mobilizing legislative support but haven't quite gotten enough votes to make it happen.

The death penalty began in Delaware in 1662 with the state's first hanging. The official method of execution for Delaware was death by hanging for more than 200 more years until 1986, when lethal injection took over. The gallows were disassembled in 2003 when there was no longer a chance of an inmate choosing death by hanging.

Capital Punishment Statutes in Delaware

To some extent, states are permitted to have their own capital punishment laws: 18 states have banned capital punishment, and 32 states (including Delaware) have death penalty laws in place. The following table outlines Delaware's capital punishment laws.

Code Section Tit. 11, §§636, 4209; §406
Is Capital Punishment Allowed? Yes
Effect of Defendant's Incapacity Exempt from execution while incapacitated
Minimum Age 18
Available for Crimes Other than Homicide? None
Definition of Capital Homicide Murder committed while in or escaped from custody/confinement; committed for purposes of avoiding/preventing arrest or for effecting escape from custody; committed against law enforcement officer, corrections employee, fireman engaged in duties; committed against judge, attorney general, other state officer (former or present) during or because of exercise of official duty; hostage/ransom; witness to crime to avoid testimony; paid for it/pecuniary gain; convicted of prior felony using or threat of violence; rape, sodomy, unlawful sexual intercourse, arson, kidnapping, burglary; multiple victims; outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhumane treatment involving torture, depravity of mind or use of explosive device or poison; agent or employee of another person; defendant serving life sentence; victim was pregnant, handicapped, severely disabled or 62 years of age or older; child 14 years or younger and murderer was 4 years older; present or past nongovernment informant or provided information and killed in retaliation; murder was premeditated and result of substantial planning; or murder committed for purpose of interfering with victim's exercise of a constitutional right protected by the first amendment or because of the victim's race, religion, national origin, or disability
Method of Execution Lethal injection

The legislative stance on the death penalty has evolved over time, with the state repealing and reinstating the death penalty. Delaware legislators have made previous attempts to end capital punishment and replace it with life without parole, but faced strong opposition from First State law enforcement agencies.

Related Resources for Delaware Capital Punishment Laws:

Many states have differing laws regarding the death penalty, and they can change over time. If you would like legal assistance with a death penalty matter, you can contact a Delaware criminal law attorney. You can also visit FindLaw's Capital Punishment and the Death Penalty section for more articles and information on this topic.

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