Delaware Passes Home Invasion Law for Tougher Sentencing

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We know that burglars generally try to avoid a confrontation with homeowners: that’s why such a high percentage of residential crimes take place during the day, when intruders expect your home to be empty. But sometimes there is someone home, or a burglar is desperate enough to break down the door regardless of who may be inside. Since many burglars are armed, the risk of injury (or worse) to the homeowner goes way up. And it’s happening more often. Select states have determined that perpetrators of “home invasion” are going to pay a higher penalty in sentencing. This story from Dover, Delaware tells how one more state addressed the issue.

[Delaware] Governor Jack Markell signed legislation Friday that imposes harsher penalties on criminals who break into homes and threaten or injure its residents. The Home Invasion Bill (HB 277) creates a new crime of home invasion, which is derived in part from an aggravated form of Delaware’s current burglary offense.

Background on the New Law

Last year, Delaware State Police reported investigating nearly 50 home invasions, a trend that has continued into 2012. In one case this year, a 63-year-old man was hit in the chest with a metal pole. Media accounts of these crimes prompted legislators to team up with Attorney General Beau Biden to craft a bill that would address its seriousness. Rep. Debra Heffernan (D- Brandywine Hundred South) was the bill’s lead sponsor. “An armed person breaking into your home and possibly injuring you is one of the most jarring, awful things that can happen to a family,” she said. “Home invasion is a serious crime, and it deserves serious consequences.”

Filling a Legal Void

Prior to the bill being signed Friday, the state of Delaware didn’t have a law on the books regarding home invasion, Heffernan said. The new law classifies the crime as a person entering or remaining unlawfully in someone else’s home, engaging in or attempting to engage in certain crimes of violence against an occupant of the home, including robbery, assault, kidnapping, rape, manslaughter and murder, and is either armed or injures a victim during the crime. “We needed to take action and give law enforcement the ability to take this crime on directly,” Heffernan said.

Sentencing Details

Home invasion is a class B felony that triples the minimum mandatory sentence for a first offense to six years in prison. It also carries a stiffer penalty for a second offense that occurs within five years of being released from prison for a first offense — from four years for burglary to eight years for home invasion.

Remember Connecticut?

Many New England residents remember that in July of 2007 the state of Connecticut was rocked by the report of a home invasion in Cheshire that resulted in arson and murder. It took over three years until the first of the two perpetrators was convicted and sentenced – but shortly after the event occurred, the State of Connecticut toughened its law regarding home invasion. Here’s a link to that news article:

Within months of the July 2007 crime, state lawmakers passed a bill that made home invasion a Class A felony punishable by 10 to 25 years in prison; Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed the bill into law the following January. Through the end of June, 2010, 11 people had been convicted of the offense in state courts, including one person in Danbury, and most in conjunction with other crimes. More than 200 cases remained pending.

The Cheshire case (or Petit case, after the name of the family that was victimized) was particularly heinous. While it’s rare for a crime that so directly intersects with home security to make the headlines, this one was truly the exception, as you can see in this excerpt (click here for the full report: I warn you, it’s a tough read).

With residential crime on the rise across much of America, it’s easy to make the case for getting a home alarm system to protect your home and family. Studies have shown that a home with a monitored alarm system is only one third as likely to experience a burglary as the unprotected house next door. And the next-generation alarm companies like FrontPoint also offer fire monitoring, smarter interactive features, and even home automation for remote control of light, locks, and thermostats. All these advanced features are just part of what makes FrontPoint the leader in interactive, wireless home security. But, we are primarily in the business of providing peace of mind – and that starts with your intrusion alarm system. When you are ready for safer, smarter, simpler, more affordable, and virtually impossible to defeat – think FrontPoint.

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