Delaware District Attorneys

Delaware prosecutors act similarly. But the sparsely populated state doesn't have district attorneys. Instead, the Delaware Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutes crimes throughout the state. Delaware's Attorney General (AG) heads the state's justice department.

In most states, district attorneys (DAs) file criminal charges against suspects on behalf of the state within their respective districts. Judicial districts are typically comprised of one or more counties. DAs are sometimes called “state's attorneys," "county attorneys," or simply "prosecutors."

When the district attorney's office decides there's probable cause for criminal charges, they file a complaint. Sometimes, the charges are filed after a grand jury has found probable cause. Of course, the DA also may decide not to pursue a case after an arrest.

While "Delaware district attorneys" don't exist, this article covers how criminal charges are filed in the state. It discusses the Delaware Attorney General's Office and includes links to some of the divisions of the state justice department.

How Criminal Charges Are Filed in Delaware

Instead of district attorneys, both misdemeanors and felonies in Delaware are prosecuted by the Criminal Division of the Delaware Justice Department. Delaware's charging methods are like those used in other states. A grand jury of randomly selected state residents considers the evidence privately. If they fail to indict the defendant, the case doesn't proceed. If the defendant waives indictment, the prosecutor may file charges through the information.

The next phase after the indictment or filing of the information is the bail review. Bail review is when the court determines whether bail can be reduced or whether the defendant should stay in pretrial detention. The review is held in Magistrate Court, Municipal Court, or the Court of Common Pleas. The next step is arraignment, where the defendant is formally charged with a crime and enters either a "guilty" or "not guilty" plea. But the defendant may waive this hearing.

A criminal trial will be held unless the defendant and prosecutor reach a deal. Talking to the prosecutor without hiring a criminal attorney is not a good idea. You could unknowingly reveal your defense strategy or make an admission that could hurt your case. It's best to contact a criminal defense attorney so they can help you.

Delaware Public Defender

If you can't afford a private attorney, you can get help with your criminal case. The Office of Defense Services (ODS) provides legal assistance to indigent and incarcerated clients statewide. In general, they work in criminal and delinquency matters.

ODS comprises three divisions:

  1. Central Administration
  2. Public Defender's Office
  3. Office of Conflicts Counsel

The Public Defender's Office is the law firm within the ODS. All of the attorneys with the Delaware Public Defender's Office are members of the Delaware Bar Association. They represent clients in all courts in all three of Delaware's counties.

Delaware public defenders represent adults and youth charged with crimes in Delaware. They represent people charged with misdemeanors and some motor vehicle offenses, such as driving under the influence (DUI). They also represent adults involved in domestic violence cases. ODS offers expungement assistance.

ODS attorneys do not handle civil cases.

These attorneys represent you through every stage of the process, from arraignment to appeal.

Public defenders operate on the principle that income should not be a barrier to legal representation. They set a goal of “zealous advocacy." They have experience handling criminal law matters.

Eligibility for a public defender is determined during an interview with an intake investigator.

People are often skeptical of a public defender's experience and commitment to legal representation. ODS attorneys say they work for the best possible outcome for a client's criminal charges. Possible outcomes include:

  • A diversionary program
  • Case dismissal
  • Acquittal
  • Dropped charges
  • A plea
  • A verdict at trial

Delaware's federal public defender represents indigent defendants charged with federal crimes.

Delaware residents with low income can get help with their non-criminal legal issues. Services are free to those who qualify. The Legal Services Corporation of Delaware (LCSD) is a non-profit law office providing legal advice and assistance to Delaware residents with low income. The LSCD handles many kinds of legal matters, such as:

  • Bankruptcy
  • Housing (including eviction and foreclosure)
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Tax issues

Services are free to income-qualified Delaware residents.

Another source of legal help and advocacy in civil matters comes from Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (CLASI), which provides free legal services to qualified Delaware residents. In addition to legal advocacy for people with low incomes, CLASI helps people with disabilities, seniors, and immigrants.

Delaware Attorney General's Office: Overview

The state's Department of Justice is headed by the Delaware Attorney General (AG), an elected official who serves as the top prosecutor and law enforcement officer in the state. The AG oversees five divisions in addition to the Criminal Division (discussed above). These divisions include the following:

  • Civil: Provides legal services for the state government
  • Civil Rights & Public Trust: Protects state residents' rights and liberties. Areas of focus include housing discrimination, employment discrimination, education rights, the rights of people with disabilities, public accommodations, and constitutional rights
  • Family: Provides help with family law matters such as child support orders and prosecutes child abuse/neglect cases. Also administers Delaware's Juvenile Delinquency & Truancy Unit
  • Fraud & Consumer Protection: Enforces consumer protection laws that protect consumers from securities fraud, consumer fraud, Medicaid provider fraud, antitrust violations, white-collar crimes, and deceptive business practices

Charged With a Crime in Delaware? Get Professional Legal Help Today

If you or a loved one has been charged with a criminal offense in Delaware, you should retain legal counsel as soon as possible. A criminal defense lawyer knows the law. They understand the criminal justice system and will work to obtain the best possible outcome for your case. Don't delay. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney near you.

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