On April 8, 2020, the Delaware State Courts announced that they have launched a new policy, in consultation with the Department of Justice, the Office of Defense Services, and other justice partners, to cease issuing capiases, or bench warrants, for failure to pay court debt from approximately March 13, 2020 to a date not yet determined. This response meets many of our asks in the letter below, and includes:
- All criminal, civil and traffic assessments. This moratorium does not apply to the collection and enforcement of child support.
- Filing and Payment Centers located in the courthouses are closed to the public.
- Capias returns for failure to pay are suspended throughout the Delaware Judiciary.
- If you have an active capias for failure to pay issued prior to the emergency, please call the appropriate Court to determine if your capias may be cleared. (Contact phone numbers arelisted below.)
- Late notices and late fees for Voluntary Assessment Center obligations have been suspended.
- All State Tax Refund and Lottery Winning Intercepts on behalf of the Delaware Courts will temporarily cease.
- New Castle County: 302-255-0735
- Kent County: 302-735-1901
- Sussex County: 302-855-7055
- New Castle County: 302-255-0300
- Kent County: 302-672-1000
- Sussex County: 302-855-7400
Court of Common Pleas
- New Castle County: 302-255-0900
- Kent County: 302-735-3900
- Sussex County: 302-858-5700
Justice of the Peace
- New Castle County: 302-323-4450
- Kent County: 302-739-4554
- Sussex County: 302-856-1445
March 22, 2020
Gayle Laffety, Esq.
State Court Administrator
State of Delaware
The Honorable Collins J. Seitz, Jr.
Supreme Court of the State of Delaware
Dear Ms. Lafferty and Chief Justice Seitz:
In the last week, life in Delaware has turned upside down and all of our institutions of civic life are struggling mightily to adjust. The state court system is no exception, and we appreciate that you have been working tirelessly to adapt court procedures to address public health concerns and continue essential functions. We write to draw your attention to an additional court function that should be adjusted in these exceptional times.
The Courts should suspend payments due for outstanding fines, fees, and restitution – and ensure that consequences for missed payments, such as late fees, issuance of capiases and suspension of drivers’ licenses are suspended as well. This is a time when Delawareans are facing economic uncertainty, and the State and federal government are taking various measures to provide relief, such as prohibiting utility shutoffs, delaying evictions and foreclosures, and delaying or forgiving tax payments due. Likewise, as more Delawareans – especially those in lower-paying, non-salaried positions – are impacted by shutdowns and the slowing economy, their ability to meet payments due to the courts will be affected. Since missed payments can and do generate unique consequences such as the issuance of failure to pay capiases (and a fee for clearing it as well as potential for law enforcement interaction) and the suspension of a driver’s license (which requires an additional payment for reinstatement) – the Courts should suspend these obligations through the current emergency.
While there have been announcements that various in-person options for payment will not be available, and directions to kiosks and online payment options, we have not seen any announcement relating to relief from payment obligations. We recognize that the Courts have been working hard under difficult circumstances, but we hope that you will consider and act on this matter soon.
We are at your disposal if we can do anything to assist.
/s/ Karen Lantz
Legal & Policy Director
/s/ Margaret Hu
Campaign to End Debtor’s Prisons
Cc. Kathy Jennings, Esq.
Brendan O’Neill, Esq.
Jackie Mette, Esq.