Contact: Melanie Rapp, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902
Gov. Markell signs Senate Bill 114 declassifying
minor violations in Delaware State Parks
WILMINGTON (August 14, 2015) – Today at Bellevue State Park, as DNREC Secretary David S. Small and Delaware Chief Justice Leo Strine looked on, Governor Jack Markell signed legislation that changes almost two dozen minor environmental offenses associated with Delaware State Parks from unclassified misdemeanors to environmental violations. Sponsored by Senate Majority Leader David McBride and Representative Debra Heffernan, Senate Bill 114 also exempts the first offense of these violations from being included on criminal history records.
The legislation builds on the Markell Administration’s work in transforming Delaware’s criminal justice system by recognizing that the state’s policies must allow for more appropriate penalties than in the past, while not placing an obstacle for employment for people who commit a minor environmental violation within a Delaware State Park.
“Senate Bill 114 represents a practical solution to address penalty policies that don’t impact public safety in Delaware State Parks and may prevent citizens from securing jobs, as a result of background checks by prospective employers,” said Governor Markell. “I thank Chief Justice Strine, Senator McBride and Representative Heffernan for their leadership in supporting this legislation, which provides more appropriate penalties for minor violations and keeps the first offense off a person’s criminal record.”
"Senate Bill 114 effectively modernizes and updates Delaware law to help support the work that Parks Enforcement Police does to protect our 16 State Parks located throughout Delaware,” said DNREC Secretary Small. “Through this legislation, DNREC retains violation records and continues to have the legal tools needed to protect our natural resources and ensures that visitors have a safe, enjoyable and inspiring experience at a Delaware State Park.”
Examples of these less severe environmental violations include: fishing without a license, driving on a state park beach without a surf permit, and having your dog off a lease.
“Dealing with behavior in a way that is proportionate to what is at stake is essential to the idea of doing justice under law,” said Chief Justice Strine. “Using scarce enforcement and judicial resources wisely is essential to doing right by taxpayers. This bill makes our state both more just and more cost-effective, and constitutes part of an important larger effort by Governor Markell and Senator McBride to make sure that offenses are handled in a common sense way.”
“This is the continuation of our efforts to ensure that, while we punish people who violate our environmental laws, we do it in a sensible way that also helps relieve some of the pressure on our courts,” said Sen. Majority Leader David McBride, D-Hawks Nest, who worked with Small and Strine on the law. “This penalizes people who break the rules in our parks, but their initial transgressions won’t follow them when they apply for jobs as it did in the past.”
“I’m proud to have sponsored this new law,” said House sponsor Rep. Debra Heffernan, D-Brandywine Hundred South. “This is a jobs bill because it will keep these minor violations off a person's criminal record, which is important for pre-employment criminal background checks.”
What Senate Bill 114 does:
· Declassifies a number of less severe offenses associated with Delaware State Parks by changing several violations from unclassified misdemeanors to Class D environmental violations;
· Stipulates that the first offense of a Class D environmental violation will not be reported on criminal history records provided by the State Bureau of Identification;
· Authorizes DNREC to retain records on environmental violations to ensure that subsequent offenses are reported on criminal history records; and
· Reflects DNREC’s commitment to achieve compliance with Delaware State Park regulations through education and necessary enforcement actions.
Vol. 45, No. 266