Tips for Crime Victims

Tips for Dealing with the Delaware Department of Justice

The following suggestions could be useful if the prosecutor assigned to your case refuses to prosecute.

1. Know the law. You can look up the Delaware Code online to see what statutes the perpetrator may have violated. Sometimes the statutes include vague terms such as “criminally negligent”. The Code gives a very imprecise definition of this term. The way to find out if the statute has actually been violated is to look up the relevant case law, which is quite easy to do. Go to a law library. (I used the one at Widener University.) Look up cases involving the statute you believe has been violated in the Atlantic Reporter. You should look primarily for references to crimes committed in Delaware. If you don’t know how to use the Atlantic Reporter, just ask a librarian for help; in a few minutes you will be able to look up citations on your own. Find similar cases to the one you’re interested in and see how they were prosecuted. If you need more information on the cases (especially information on the sentencing of the defendant) you can go to the Prothonotary – there is one for each of the three counties in Delaware and you will need to go to the one for the county in which the crime occurred. If it is inconvenient to go to the Prothonotary, you can order the court docket for the case over the phone (but there is a charge per page for the copies). You may find that a case the prosecutor tells you is not prosecutable is actually similar to other cases which have been prosecuted; this may be an indication that you are dealing with a dishonest and/or incompetent prosecutor.

2. Look up the Statute of Limitations for the crime. An unethical prosecutor may deliberately stall to run out the clock so that the perpetrator can’t be prosecuted.

3. If the prosecutor decides not to prosecute, you can appeal the decision to the County Prosecutor. If the County Prosecutor’s response is not satisfactory, you can appeal the decision to higher levels.

4. File a complaint against the prosecutor with the Justice Department. Given the current climate in the Department, this probably won’t do any good at present. But if the Department receives enough complaints it may be more likely to reform itself.

5. Yet another way to obtain leverage is get some media coverage. It is important to not wait too long to exercise this option; that is one of the mistakes I made in my father’s case. The older a case is, the less newsworthy it will be. The Latika Wright case is a good example in which media attention necessitated a response from the Justice Department.

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