- Associated Press - Thursday, March 24, 2016

DOVER, Del. (AP) - Delaware would eliminate mandatory life sentences for habitual offenders and distinguish between violent felonies and all other felonies when sentencing habitual criminals under a bill passed by the Senate on Thursday.

The legislation cleared the chamber with a 14-to-6 vote and now goes to the House.

Under the measure, a person would be declared a habitual criminal after being convicted of a third violent felony or a fourth felony of any kind.

If a person had three felony convictions and was then convicted of a violent felony, the minimum sentence would equal half the maximum allowed for the violent felony.

But if one of the three prior convictions involved a violent felony, or if a person was convicted of a third violent felony, the minimum sentence would equal the maximum allowed for the final violent felony.

Democratic Gov. Jack Markell applauded Senate passage of the legislation, which is in line with a proposal he made in his State of the State address.

“It’s time that we provide judges with more discretion to sentence offenders on a case-by-case basis so that we can focus our limited resources on keeping dangerous offenders off the streets,” Markell said in a prepared statement in which he encouraged the House to also approve the measure.

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