All states divide crimes into felonies and misdemeanors. In Delaware, felonies are serious crimes, punishable by incarceration in state prison and by a fine in any amount the sentencing court deems appropriate. Delaware lawmakers designate felonies as Class A, B, C, D, E, F, or G. (Del. Code tit. 11, §§ 4201, 4205.) Misdemeanors are less serious crimes, punishable by up to one year in jail.
For more information on misdemeanors in Delaware, see Delaware Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences.
Class A Felonies
Class A felonies are the most serious crimes in Delaware. First degree murder is a class A felony and it is punishable by death or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Other class A felonies are punishable by 15 years to life in prison. (Del. Code tit. 11, §§ 4204, 4205, 4209.)
Class B Felonies
A class B felony is punishable by two to 25 years’ imprisonment. (Del. Code tit. 11, § 4205.) Child rape is an example of a class B felony.
Class C Felonies
A conviction for a class C felony in Delaware can result in a prison term of up to 15 years. (Del. Code tit. 11, § 4205.) Promoting (profiting from or facilitating) child prostitution is a class C felony.
For more information on this and related crimes, see Prostitution, Pimping, and Pandering Laws in Delaware.
Class D and E Felonies
Class D Felonies are punishable by up to eight years in prison, while class E felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison. (Del. Code tit. 11, § 4205.) Theft of property valued at more than $50,000 but less than $100,000 is a class E felony under Delaware’s laws.
For more information on theft penalties, see Delaware Petty Theft and Other Theft Laws.
Class F and G Felonies
A class F felony is punishable by up to three years in prison. Class G felonies are the least serious felonies in Delaware, punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment. If lawmakers fail to designate a felony as belonging to a particular class, then it is punishable as a class G felony. (Del. Code tit. 11, §§ 4204, 4205.) Sale of drug paraphernalia is a class G felony.
For more information, see Delaware Marijuana Laws.
Prior Felony Convictions
When judges have discretion to decide a particular sentence from a set range, a person who has a prior felony conviction can usually expect to be sentenced to a longer term than a first-time offender convicted of the same crime. In Delaware, the maximum sentences set out above apply to a person’s first or second felony conviction. For subsequent felony convictions, the rules are different. A person in Delaware who has been convicted two or more times for certain violent or serious drug felonies or three or more times for any felony and is then convicted of another felony is deemed a habitual criminal. Upon the third or fourth felony conviction, a habitual criminal may be sentenced to life in prison. (Del. Code tit. 11, §§ 4214, 4215.)
For more information on recidivist sentencing laws, see Three Strikes and You're Out.
Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations is a time limit by which the state must begin criminal prosecution or the defendant can have the case dismissed. In Delaware, the statute of limitations for most felonies is five years from the date the crime is committed. The most serious crimes, such as murder and certain sex crimes, have no statutes of limitations.
For more information, see Delaware Criminal Statute of Limitations.
Obtaining Legal Assistance
Criminal convictions have serious consequences. Aside from time in prison and fines, a felony criminal record can result in a longer sentence if you are convicted of another crime, and can make it difficult to obtain a job or a professional license. If you are charged with a felony, you should talk to a criminal defense attorney practicing in Delaware. An attorney can tell you what to expect in court and help you understand your options and protect your rights.