The Delaware Sentencing Accountability Commission (SENTAC)
The Delaware Sentencing Accountability Commission (SENTAC), was established under Title 11, §6580 of the Delaware Code. The overarching purpose for the creation of the Commission was to establish a system that emphasizes accountability of the offender to the criminal justice system and accountability of the criminal justice system to the public.
In fulfillment of its purpose, the Commission created sentencing guidelines, embodied in what Delaware refers to as the “Benchbook.” These guidelines were approved of and implemented by Administrative Directive Seventy-Six of the Supreme Court of Delaware in 1987. The guidelines themselves are designed to ensure certain and consistent punishment commensurate with the seriousness of the offense and taking into consideration resource availability and cost. It should be noted that Delaware’s sentencing guidelines are voluntary and non-binding, and as such, in the absence of constitutional violations, are not generally subject to appeal.
The Benchbook is designed to assist sentencing judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and other participants within the sentencing community in the formulation of sentences that are consistent with the goals of sentencing reform promulgated by SENTAC. The overall sentencing philosophy of the General Assembly and SENTAC is that offenders should be sentenced to the least restrictive and most cost-effective sanction possible given the severity of the offense, the criminal history of the offender and the focus, which is, above all, to protect the public’s safety. Other goals in order of priority include:
Incapacitation of the violence-prone offender;
Restoration of the victim as nearly as possible to the victim’s pre-offense status, and
Rehabilitation of the offender. (64 Del. Laws, c. 402 § 1)
The Benchbook is revised annually to reflect legislative changes since the passage of the Truth in Sentencing Act of 1989. The most recent PDF version of the Benchbook can be downloaded: Benchbook 2020
The Commission holds regular meetings which are posted on the Statewide Calendar to review relevant sentencing matters. The Commission addresses general policy issues only and does not discuss specific or individual cases.
In an effort to ensure that SENTAC is fulfilling its goal of accountability both within the criminal justice system and to the public as a whole, conferences are held when necessary to gather and disseminate information.
The Commission consists of eleven members: four members of the judiciary to be appointed by the Chief Justice, the Attorney General, the Public Defender, the Commissioner of Correction and four members at large, two of whom are appointed by the Governor, one who is appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and one who is appointed by the Speaker of the House. Current Commission Members.