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Delaware House Republicans

Bills Would Increase Penalties to
Better Protect First Responders

Bills Would Increase Penalties to<br>Better Protect First Responders

For Immediate Release: Friday, March 15, 2024
For More Information, Contact: Joseph Fulgham (302) 744-4184

Two bills pending action in the General Assembly propose increasing the consequences
for people whose actions endanger first responders or damage emergency equipment.
State Rep. Jesse Vanderwende (R-Greenwood, Bridgeville) says he decided to author
House Bill 323 following an incident in his district last November.

On the night of November 13, firefighters from six Delaware and Maryland municipalities
responded to a blaze at New Process Fibre Company in Greenwood. Two fire trucks
from the Ellendale Fire Company and three vehicles from other companies were
damaged by individuals throwing rocks near the fire scene.

“This wasn’t just malicious vandalism; it was an act of violence that endangered
firefighters and motorists, interfered with emergency response, and damaged
equipment vital to public safety,” Rep. Vanderwende said.

The measure sponsored by Rep. Vanderwende seeks to expand the crime of ‘criminal
mischief’ to include damaging an authorized emergency vehicle* performing its duties.
Criminal mischief is usually a class G felony, punishable by a maximum of 2 years in
jail. House Bill 323 would increase the punishment for emergency vehicle criminal
mischief to a class E felony, carrying a maximum of 5 years in prison.

“This crime is as serious as it is inexcusable,” Rep. Vanderwende said. “The penalty
should reflect that.”

The legislation is currently pending action in the House Judiciary Committee.
State Rep. Jeff Hilovsky (R-Long Neck, Oak Orchard) is sponsoring a separate bill also
focused on protecting police, paramedics, and firefighters and facilitating prompt
emergency response.

“It seems that ever since the pandemic, more motorists have harbored increased
contempt for obeying our traffic laws,” Rep. Hilovsky said. “Not a week goes by where I
do not hear constituents making this observation. This is even more problematic when
first responders are on their way to an emergency.”

Motorists who fail to yield the right-of-way to an emergency vehicle with its lights and
sirens operating can already be cited under state law. House Bill 329 would significantly
increase the penalties for the people committing this violation. Under the proposal, the
fine for a first offense would more than triple, from $150 to $500. The civil penalty for a
second violation would jump from $300 to $1,000. Those found guilty of breaking the
law for a third time would receive a new penalty–a fine of $2,000 and a 90-day
suspension of their driver’s license.

“Too many motorists are flouting the law, driving inattentively, and putting others at
unacceptable risk,” Rep. Hilovsky said. “This bill makes an appropriate, dramatic
statement that I think will get their attention.”

The bill is pending the consideration of the House Public Safety & Homeland Security

  • Defined as vehicles of a fire department, fire company, police vehicles, ambulances, and
    vehicles used by a fire chief, chief engineer, or fire police office