The Delaware Supreme Court has affirmed a lower court ruling that states sheriffs do not have an inherent constitutional right to make arrests.
In a 26-page ruling handed down Oct. 7, the five-member court agreed with a March 2013 Superior Court decision that rejected Sussex County Sheriff Jeffrey Christopher’s claim to having arrest powers under the Delaware Constitution. That initial ruling, and the subsequent appeal, followed a lawsuit Christopher filed against the county and state after the Delaware General Assembly passed legislation in June 2012 specifically barring sheriffs and their deputies from making arrests.
The Supreme Court found the Delaware General Assembly was within its right to establish, by statute, the authority of Delaware sheriffs and deputies.
“We hold that the term ‘conservator of peace’ in the 1776 Delaware Constitution and each successive Delaware Constitution has always been used only to describe a changing variety of public officials,” the ruling states. “That generic collective description has never defined the powers of any specifically named constitutional office holder. The sheriff’s argument to the contrary is without merit.”