The ACLU of Delaware sent a letter March 12 to members of the House Administration Committee asking that House Substitute 1 for House Bill 302 be held in committee until serious issues of constitutionality and safety are addressed.

The substitute bill would allow a Justice of the Peace Court to order a person in a mental health crisis not to reside in a home with another person who has firearms. Under the provisions of the proposed legislation, the person who is in the mental health crisis does not have the right to be present at the emergency hearing and may not have any opportunity to appear in court to challenge the order for 60 days or more, if at all. This is an unconstitutional infringement on liberty without due process.

Due process requires the government to provide its citizens with a chance to challenge a deprivation before it happens, or in certain emergency situations, an opportunity to challenge the order shortly after it has issued. Sixty days or longer with no hearing is beyond the bounds of what the Constitution permits.

ACLU of Delaware is also concerned that the bill does not require that a law enforcement officer who directly interacts with a person who must relinquish a firearm or leave their home must have training in how to interact with people with mental illness. Such a commonsense requirement has the potential to defuse a potentially dangerous situation and save more lives.

The letter has been sent to the members of the House Administration Committee and will be sent to all House members if the bill is released from committee.

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