Criminal Offenses In Alderman Court



A dollar makes a big difference in the Alderman Court depending on whether one wants to transfer a criminal case to the Court of Common Pleas before trial or appeal a conviction after trial. The difference of one dollar has been a source of confusion for lawyers, defendants and even the Alderman Court themselves.

The confusion comes when a defendant charged with a town offense in Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach or Bethany Beach wants to transfer a case from the Alderman Court to the Sussex County Court of Common Pleas prior to trial. In Delaware, if one wants to “transfer” a criminal offense from the Alderman Court to the Court of Common Pleas, the fine needs to be $100.00 or more. In all cases where a defendant has the right to transfer, the Alderman is required to advise a defendant of that right and give them the opportunity to transfer before the Alderman can hear the case.

However, to appeal a conviction in Alderman Court to the Court of Common Pleas, the fine must EXCEED $100.00. A conviction in Alderman Court can also be appealed if there is a term of imprisonment imposed that exceeds one month. As for the one month imprisonment period, Delaware has conveniently not explained whether one month is the 28, 30 or 31 day variety. To sum up, a fine of $100.00 or more can be transferred but to appeal, there must be a sentence that exceeds $100.00.

This has created confusion for Alderman Court because individuals seeking to transfer a case which carries a $100.00 fine have often been denied the right to transfer. The Alderman Court justifies the decision by applying the appeal standard of exceeding $100.00 in order to transfer, instead of the transfer standard of $100.00 or more.

I recently had a case where the Alderman declined my request to transfer a case with a $100.00 fine and the Alderman stated the “system” would not let the Court transfer. Perhaps the confusion extends to the programmers who program the State court computers as well.

I don’t know how often Defendants are denied a request to transfer or not informed of the right to transfer, but it has happened to clients of mine on more than one occasion. This has required me to push the issue with the Court resulting in lost time and more worry for my clients. Considering the amount of $100.00 fines on the books for town offenses, I am concerned for individuals who do not have an attorney to push the issue.

With the apparent confusion surrounding this issue, how often have defendants been denied the right to transfer or not been informed of the right to transfer as required? Unfortunately, this situation while resulting in increased revenues for the town, denies rights provided to an individual? For more information, contact Ron Phillips at 302-855-9300 (Georgetown) or 302-422-9300 (Milford) 302-628-9300 (Seaford)

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