OFFENSES AGAINST RELIGION, MORALITY AND DECENCY.
AN ACT Defining Certain Nuisances, with Regard to Social Vice.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Delaware in, General Assembly met:
Section 1. TERMS DEFINED. For the purpose of this Act the terms place, person, nuisance are defined as follows: place shall include any building, erection, or place, or any separate part or portion thereof, or the ground itself; person shall include any individual, corporation, association, partnership, trustee, lessee, agent, or assignee; nuisance shall mean any place as above defined in or upon which lewdness, assignation, or prostitution is conducted, permitted, continued, or exists, and the personal property and contents used in conducting or maintaining any such place for any such purpose.
Section 2. WHO ARE GUILTY. Any person who shall use, occupy, establish, or conduct a nuisance as defined in Section 1, or aid or abet therein, and the owner, agent, or lessee of any interest in any such nuisance, together with the persons employed in or in control of any such nuisance by any such owner, agent, or lessee, shall be guilty of maintaining a nuisance and shall be enjoined as hereinafter provided.
Section 3. ACTION TO ENJOIN AND ABATE AND WHO MAY MAINTAIN SAME. Whenever a nuisance exists the Attorney General of the State, or any person who is a citizen of the County, or has an office therein, may bring an action in equity in the name of the State of Delaware, upon the relation of such Attorney General, or person, to abate such nuisance, and to perpetually enjoin the person or persons maintaining the same from further maintenance thereof.
Section 4. JURISDICTION AND PROCEDURETEMPORARY INJUNCTION. Such action shall be brought in the Court of Chancery of the County in which the property is located. At or before the commencement of the action a verified complaint alleging the facts constituting the nuisance shall be filed in the office of the Register in Chancery, together with a notice of the pendency of the action, containing the names of the parties, the object of the action, and a brief description of the property affected thereby. Such notice shall be immediately recorded by the Register in Chancery. After the filing of the complaint, application for a temporary injunction may be made to the Chancellor, who shall grant a hearing thereon within ten days thereafter. Where such application for a temporary injunction has been made, the Court, on application of the complainant, may issue an ex parte restraining order restraining the defendants and all other persons from removing, or in any manner interfering with, the personal property and contents of the place where such nuisance is alleged to exist until the decision of the Chancellor granting or refusing such temporary injunction, and until the further order of the Chancellor thereon. The restraining order may be served by handing to and leaving a copy of said order with any person in charge of said place, or residing therein, or by posting a copy thereof in a conspicuous place at or upon one or more of the principal doors or entrances to such place, or by both such delivery and posting. The officer serving such restraining order shall forthwith make and return into Court an inventory of the personal property and contents situated in and used in conducting or maintaining such nuisance. Any violation of such restraining order shall be a contempt of court, and where such order is so posted mutilation or removal thereof, while the same remains in force, shall be a contempt of court, provided such posted order contains thereon or therein a notice to that effect. A copy of the complaint together with a notice of the time and place of the hearing of the application for a temporary injunction shall be served upon the defendants at least five days before such hearing. If the hearing be then continued at the instance of any defendant, the temporary writ as prayed shall be granted as a matter of course. Each defendant so notified shall serve upon the complainant, or his attorney, a verified answer on or before the date fixed in said notice for said hearing, and such answer shall be filed with the Register in Chancery wherein such cause is triable, but the Chancellor may allow additional time for so answering, providing such extension of the time shall not prevent the issuing of said temporary writ as prayed for. The allegations of the answer shall be deemed to be traversed without further pleading. If upon the hearing the allegations be sustained to the satisfaction of the Chancellor, the Chancellor shall issue a temporary injunction without bond restraining the defendants and any other person or persons from continuing the nuisance. When the temporary injunction has been granted, it shall be binding on the defendants throughout the State. Any violation thereof shall be contempt of court, to be punished as hereinafter provided. If at the time of granting a temporary injunction, it shall further appear that the person owning, in control, or in charge of the nuisance so enjoined has received five days' notice of the hearing, and unless such person shall show to the satisfaction of the Chancellor that the nuisance complained of has been abated, or that such person proceeded forthwith to enforce his rights under the provisions of Section 12 of this Act, the Chancellor shall forthwith issue an order closing the place against its use for any purpose until the final decision shall be rendered on the application for a permanent injunction. Such order shall also continue in effect for such further period the restraining order above provided if already issued, or, if not so issued, shall include such an order restraining for such period the removal or interference with the personal property and contents located thereat or therein as hereinbefore provided, and such restraining order shall be served and the inventory of such property shall be made and filed as hereinbefore provided; provided, however, that the owner or owners of any real or personal property so closed or restrained, or to be closed or restrained, may appear at any time between the filing of the complaint and the hearing on the application for a permanent injunction, and, upon payment of all costs incurred and upon the filing of a bond by the owner of the real property, with sureties to be approved by the Chancellor in the full value of the property to be ascertained by the Chancellor, conditioned that such owner or owners will immediately abate the nuisance and prevent the same from being established or kept until the decision of the Chancellor shall have been rendered on the application for a permanent injunction, then and in that case, the Chancellor, if satisfied of the good faith of the owner of the real property and of innocence on the part of any owner of the personal property of any knowledge of the use of such personal property as a nuisance, and that, with reasonable care and diligence, such owner could not have known thereof, shall deliver such real or personal property, or both, to the respective owners thereof, and cancel or refrain from issuing at the time of the hearing on the application, for the temporary injunction, as the case may be, any order or orders closing such real property or restraining the removal or interference with such personal property. The release of any real or personal property under the provisions of this section shall not release it from any judgment, lien, penalty, or liability to which it may be subjected by law.
Section 5. TRIAL PROCEEDINGS, PERMANENT INJUNCTION.- The *saction [*action] when brought shall be noticed for trial at a time to be fixed by the Chancellor. In such action evidence of the general reputation of the place, or an admission, or finding of guilt of any person under the criminal laws against prostitution, lewdness, or assignation at any such place, shall be admissible for the purpose of proving the existence of said nuisance, and shall be prima facie evidence of such nuisance and of knowledge of and of acquiescence and participation therein on the part of the person or persons 'charged with maintaining said nuisance as herein defined. If the complaint is filed by a person who is a citizen of the County, or has an office therein, it shall not be dismissed except upon a sworn statement by the complainant and his or its attorney, setting forth the reasons why the action should be dismissed and the dismissal approved by the Attorney General in writing, or before the Chancellor. If the Chancellor is of the opinion that the action ought not to be dismissed, he may direct the Attorney General to prosecute said action to judgment at the expense of the County, and if the action is continued more than one term of Court, any person who is a citizen of the County, or has an office therein, or the Attorney General, may be substituted for the complainant and prosecute said action to judgment. If the action is brought by a person who is a citizen of the County, or has an office therein, and the Court finds that there were no reasonable grounds or cause for said action, the costs may be taxed to such person. If the existence of the nuisance shall be established upon the trial, a decree shall be entered which shall perpetually enjoin the defendants and any other person or persons from further maintaining the nuisance at the place complained of, and the defendants from maintaining such nuisance elsewhere within the State.
Section 6. ORDER OF ABATEMENT.-If the existence of the nuisance be admitted or established in an action as provided in this Act or in a criminal proceeding in any Court of competent jurisdiction in this State, an order of abatement shall be entered as a part of the decree in the case, which order shall direct the removal from the place of all personal property and contents used in conducting the nuisance, and not already released under authority of the Court as provided in Section 4, and shall direct the sale of such thereof as belong to the defendants notified or appearing, in the manner provided for the gale of chattels under execution. Such order shall also require the renewal for one year of any bond furnished by the owner of the real property as provided in Section 4, or, if not so furnished, shall continue for one year any closing order issued at the time of granting the temporary injunction, or, if no such closing order was then issued, shall include an order directing the effectual closing of the place against its use for any purpose, and so keeping it closed for a period of one year unless sooner released; provided, however, that the owner of any place so closed and not released under bond as hereinbefore provided may now appear and obtain such release in the manner and upon fulfilling the requirements as hereinbefore provided. The release of the property under the provisions of this section shall not release it from any judgment, lien, penalty, or liability to which it may be subject by law. Owners of unsold personal property and contents so seized must appear and claim same within ten days after such order of abatement is made and prove innocence, to the satisfaction of the Chancellor, or any knowledge of said use thereof, and that with reasonable care and diligence they could not have known thereof. Every defendant in the action shall be presumed to have had knowledge of the general reputation of the place. If such innocence be so established, such unsold personal property and contents shall be delivered to the owner, otherwise it shall be sold as hereinbefore provided. If any person shall break and enter, or use a place so directed to be closed, he shall be punished as for contempt as provided hereinafter. For removing and selling .the personal property and contents, the officer shall be entitled to charge and receive the same fees as he would for levying upon and selling like property on execution; and for closing the place and keeping it closed, a reasonable sum shall be allowed by the Chancellor.
Section 7. DUTY OF ATTORNEY GENERAL PROCEEDS. In case the existence of such nuisance is established in a criminal proceeding, it shall be the duty of the Attorney General to proceed promptly under this Act to enforce the provisions and penalties thereof, and the finding of the defendant guilty in such criminal proceedings, unless reversed or set aside, shall be conclusive as against such defendant as to the existence of the nuisance. All moneys collected under this act shall be paid to the County Treasurer. The proceeds of the sale of the personal property, as provided in the preceding section, shall be applied in payment of the costs of the action and abatement, including the complainant's costs, or so much of such proceeds as may be necessary, except as hereinafter provided.
Section 8. PUNISHMENT FOR CONTEMPT. In case of the violation of any injunction or closing order granted under the provisions of this Act, or of a restraining order, or the commission of any contempt of court in proceedings under this Act, the Chancellor may summarily try and punish the offender. The proceedings shall be commenced by filing with the Register in Chancery a complaint under oath, setting out and alleging facts constituting such violation, upon Which the Chancellor shall cause a warrant to issue, under which the defendant shall be arrested. The trial may be had upon affidavits, or either party may demand the production and oral examination of the witnesses. A party found guilty of contempt under the provisions of this Act shall be punished by a fine of not less than two hundred, nor more than one thousand dollars, or by imprisonment in the County jail not less than three nor more than six months, or by both such fine and imprisonment.
Section 9. OTHER PROVISIONS TO STAND WHEN ONE OR MORE ARE DECLARED UNCONSTITUTIONAL. SHOULD any provisions or item of this Act be held unconstitutional, such fact shall not be held to invalidate the other provisions and items thereof.