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The legal definition of loitering encompasses a greater consideration of intent in action than the literal definition.  Loitering comes under the greater heading of disorderly conduct but considers specific circumstances, environments, and situations when classifying it as loitering.  These are generally charged as misdemeanors and violations, but certain factors will raise an initial loitering charge to a felony.

A misdemeanor violation of loitering is punishable by a fine, which can vary depending upon the municipality of Delaware in which it occurs.  As such, the full penalty is entirely at the discretion of the court, although the designation of violation or misdemeanor will factor into that decision.  As well, repeat offenses are taken into consideration as are charges that may be incurred through the offense of loitering.

While loitering generally refers to lingering in a place that is either not intended for congregation or remaining in that place after one has been directed to move, the following specific scenarios would all constitute loitering:

  • •         Blocking a public or private ingress or egress
  • •         Creating an obstacle to the movements of other citizens
  • •         Creating an obstacle in a roadway
  • •         Failing to move after being ordered to do so by law enforcement
  • •         Remaining in a space for the purpose of begging
  • •         Maintaining a presence that is intimidating or fear inducing to others
  • •         Gathering with others under any of the above mentioned circumstances

Loitering Definition Specifics

These specific definitions of loitering are most often violations and sometimes misdemeanors, although they may be raised to a felony charge if the intent behind the lingering is for a malicious cause.  To this end, loitering that is for the purposes of stalking, for the purposes of prowling and committing a further crime, or for the purposes of inciting a riot are all considered as felonies rather than the lesser charges.  Delaware also gives more severe consideration to loitering that is done for the purposes of harassment, that results in bodily harm, that interferes with an emergency situation, such as the arrival of an ambulance at its destination, or that causes disturbance at a funeral or other memorial gathering.  Loitering with the intent to incite a riot is an immediate felony, although a fine for the initial loitering violation may be tacked on to the greater punishment.

Although public intoxication carries a separate violation charge, it can be viewed by the courts as a loitering charge as well, especially if the individual or individuals meet any of the other qualifying considerations.  This will result in a greater fine penalty, although neither the loitering nor the public intoxication becomes a misdemeanor until after the second infraction over the period of a year.  For all other loitering charges that do not fall into the special considerations for felonies, the same course of charges applies.

Laws Specific to Loitering in Delaware

Delaware has two loitering laws that are very specific to the state, and they concern habitation and congregation.  While general loitering as defined by the law does not become an actual violation until it is addressed as an obstruction, by either law enforcement or a private citizen, loitering for the purpose of self storage is a violation whether it results in a hindrance or not.  This particular law may be subjectively enforced and results in testimonial verification more so than evidentiary proof.  If a person falls asleep in a public place, such as on the beach or in a park, it is not considered a violation per se.  However, if the act of sleeping in this public place is for the purposes of habitation, as with indigent individuals, then it is an offense that can result in arrest.  For this specific loitering case, intent is key to the crime.

Laws regarding loitering and public congregation are not all state based, but some are decided by municipality.  While congregating for the purpose of a riot is part of the Delaware law on loitering, a public meeting, demonstration, or parade is deemed legal by the borough.  To this end, a non-malicious, celebratory parade could come under loitering laws if the proper licensing and registration is not filed with the town.  This applies to public thoroughfares and parks, but also applies to schools, colleges and universities.  Congregants can be deemed in violation if they have not received legal authority and permission to gather.  This does apply to all schools and institutions of learning, but does not apply to all towns.  If the proper certification is acquires, then the gathering itself is not a crime.

One other loitering violation falls into the category of either a misdemeanor or felony in the state of Delaware.  This is when lingering involves sexual interactions.  If a person is loitering for the desire to solicit another for a sexual act or to engage in prostitution, then it is a misdemeanor offense of loitering.  The charges may be more severe if a minor is involved, or if there are prior offenses involved, and this can cause the action to be classified as a felony instead.  Loitering for the purposes of engaging in a sexual act that is not solicited may be filed as either a violation or a misdemeanor, depending upon the location in which the loitering takes place.  This means that actions such as parking are considered an offense.  Even if the participants are in a consenting relationship with one another, their presence in a public space can initiate an arrest, and the nature of the interaction can further determine the severity of the offense.

Contact a Loitering Defense Attorney in Delaware

The law office of Brian J. Chapman in Delaware if the place to turn to if you’ve been charged with loitering or any other misdemeanor. Dial 302-656-2528 or feel free to send us an email to schedule your initial consultation appointment. Our skilled and experienced team can’t wait to hear from you.