The Wilmington, Delaware city council is considering an interesting ordinance proposal. They are considering the implementation of the As if passing another law suddenly make a criminal a law abiding citizen., which would require Wilmington residents who were found guilty of a firearms-related crime to register with the city’s police department within two days of being released from jail. Those residents would also be required to check in with law enforcement officials every six months or face a $1,000 fine and/or jail time. Residents who fell under the law would also be required to update their address with law enforcement every time they move for a three-year period. If they were found guilty of another firearms-related crime, the three-year period would restart.
“We keep saying over and over and over that it’s a small percentage of the population that is wreaking the most havoc and my idea was to target that population,” Councilman Bob Williams, who introduced the legislation last week, told Delaware Online.
The idea for the registry stems from the sex offender registry. According to Williams, a 20-year veteran of the Wilmington Police Department, the goal is behavior modification. An offender is less likely to commit a crime if they know they must frequently check in with police.
“They have to be cognizant and know: in six months I’ve got to check in, and if I’ve got warrants, outstanding violations, I’m going to get locked up. If I keep my nose clean and in six months I don’t have violations, I can walk out the door. If I don’t show up, I’ll be violating anyway,” Williams explained.
Failing to check with WPD could cost a criminal a $1,000 fine and/or up to a year in jail. Each additional day that the offender fails to appear would be an additional misdemeanor.
Some, however, are arguing this ordinance could violate the Fifth Amendment. According to Ryan Tack-Hooper, a staff attorney and legislative advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware, the ordinance would force criminals to potentially self-incriminate.
“It’s a terrible policy. This creates significant problems for the people who live in communities most impacted by gun violence without any evidence that such laws reduce violence,” Tack-Hooper explained. “If you fail to register for three days, you’re facing a three-year prison term. The reason people don’t show up for these kinds of things isn’t that they’re trying to evade law enforcement. It’s that their personal lives are unstable or they don’t get notice or they’re not able to arrange transportation or childcare.”
If passed, the ACLU is considering fighting the ordinance.