Judge weighs dispute over sheriff powers

By Randall Chase, Associated Press 4:53pm, March 8, 2013
A Delaware judge is weighing whether the state constitution gives police powers to sheriffs.

The judge heard arguments Friday in a lawsuit filed by the Sussex County sheriff against state and county officials.

Sheriff Jeff Christopher notes that the constitution names sheriffs as "conservators of the peace," and argues that courts from the U.S. Supreme Court on down have ruled that conservators of the peace have police powers.

But attorneys for the county and state argue that the constitution does not enumerate any powers for sheriffs. They say courts have used common law to define such powers, and that common law powers are subject to legislative changes.

Christopher is challenging the constitutionality of a bill approved by state lawmakers last year that bars sheriffs and their deputies from marking arrests.

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