Legislature(2007 - 2008)

2008-01-17 House Journal

Full Journal pdf

2008-01-17                     House Journal                      Page 1731
HB 323                                                                                                                        
HOUSE BILL NO. 323 by the House Rules Committee by request of                                                                   
the Governor, entitled:                                                                                                         
     "An Act relating to the crimes of assault in the fourth degree and                                                         
     of resisting or interfering with arrest; relating to the determination                                                     
     of time of a conviction; relating to offenses concerning controlled                                                        
     substances; relating to issuance of search warrants; relating to                                                           
     persons found incompetent to stand trial concerning criminal                                                               
     conduct; relating to probation and to restitution for fish and game                                                        
     violations; relating to aggravating factors at sentencing; relating to                                                     
     criminal extradition authority of the governor; removing the                                                               
     statutory bar to prosecution of certain crimes; amending Rule                                                              
     37(b), Alaska Rules of Criminal Procedure, relating to execution                                                           
     of warrants; and providing for an effective date."                                                                         
was read the first time and referred to the Judiciary and Finance                                                               
The following fiscal note(s) apply:                                                                                             
1.  Zero, Dept. of Health & Social Services                                                                                     
2.  Zero, Dept. of Public Safety                                                                                                
3.  Indeterminate, Dept. of Administration                                                                                      
4.  Indeterminate, Dept. of Administration                                                                                      
5.  Indeterminate, Dept. of Corrections                                                                                         
6.  Fiscal, Dept. of Law                                                                                                        

2008-01-17                     House Journal                      Page 1732
The Governor's transmittal letter dated January 15, 2008, follows:                                                              
"Dear Speaker Harris:                                                                                                           
Under the authority of art. III, sec. 18, of the Alaska Constitution, I am                                                      
transmitting a bill making important changes to Alaska criminal law.                                                            
These changes would continue the state's efforts to make Alaska a                                                               
safer and healthier place to live and work.                                                                                     
Domestic and other forms of violence are highly prevalent in Alaska.                                                            
It is shocking that women are murdered by men in Alaska at one of the                                                           
highest rates in the country.  Domestic violence, and other forms of                                                            
violence, often begin by a perpetrator committing less serious assaults,                                                        
and then progressing to more harmful conduct.  Most domestic                                                                    
violence assaults are prosecuted as assault in the fourth degree, which                                                         
is a class A misdemeanor.  The bill would address the progressive                                                               
nature of violence by providing that a person convicted of assault in                                                           
the fourth degree (except under the theory of recklessly placing                                                                
another in fear) who has two or more convictions for serious crimes                                                             
against a person in the past 10 years, would be guilty of a class C                                                             
felony.  The maximum term of incarceration for a class C felony is                                                              
five years.                                                                                                                     
The procedure for protecting the public from a person, who as a result                                                          
of a mental disease or defect is incompetent to be tried for a crime, has                                                       
some cracks that need to be filled.  Two recent cases have highlighted                                                          
the problem.  For example, a person charged with a serious felony was                                                           
found to be incompetent to be tried for the offense.  After a period at                                                         
Alaska Psychiatric Institute, the person was released, returned to the                                                          
person's home community, and again committed the same serious                                                                   
felony.  The bill would address this problem in several ways; first it                                                          
requires a person found incompetent to be referred to the                                                                       
commissioner of health and social services for evaluation and                                                                   
treatment.  It would also require ten days notice to the prosecuting                                                            
authority by the professional in charge of the person's care before the                                                         
person may be released.                                                                                                         

2008-01-17                     House Journal                      Page 1733
The bill would also clarify the intent of the Legislature when it                                                               
provided, in the late 1980s, that a third conviction for theft within a                                                         
five year period would increase the severity of the crime one level.  At                                                        
that time it was generally assumed, for purposes of subsequent                                                                  
enhancement, that a conviction occurs at the time the sentence was                                                              
imposed.  The bill would provide expressly in statute that, in looking                                                          
back to the prior convictions for purposes of enhancing the current                                                             
theft, the court should look back to the date the defendant was                                                                 
sentenced for the prior offenses.                                                                                               
Since early statehood, Alaska has had a statutory prohibition on the                                                            
state prosecuting and punishing a person, including a corporation, for                                                          
an act that another jurisdiction has already prosecuted.  This policy is                                                        
not based on constitutional law;  the state and federal constitutional                                                          
prohibitions against being placed twice in jeopardy for the same act do                                                         
not prohibit distinct government authorities from prosecuting the same                                                          
act under different bodies of law.  Recent events have suggested a                                                              
reconsideration of this policy.  The federal criminal prosecution of                                                            
misconduct by public officials in Alaska is an example of crime that                                                            
might also be pursued under state law.  The state should be able to                                                             
protect its unique interests, even when the federal government has                                                              
acted to redress federal interests.  Repeal of AS 11.71.310 (Bar to                                                             
Prosecution) and AS 12.20.010 (Conviction or Acquittal Elsewhere as                                                             
Bar) would assist in that endeavor.                                                                                             
The bill would make other changes in criminal law.  One would allow                                                             
a court to issue a search warrant by telephone or other reliable means                                                          
rather than an in person hearing.  Telephonic communications today                                                              
are sophisticated enough to allow for a fair hearing without requiring a                                                        
personal appearance; most Alaskans rely on telephonic                                                                           
communications for many of their important affairs.  The bill would                                                             
also give judges more discretion to allow a later return of a search                                                            
warrant inventory to allow for long-term investigations and protection                                                          
of persons working with law enforcement.  Another provision adds the                                                            
substances commonly know as Soma and Ambien to Schedule IVA of                                                                  
Alaska's prohibited substances.  Recent injuries from driving impaired                                                          
by misuse of these substances support their addition to Alaska's drug                                                           
schedules as controlled substances.                                                                                             

2008-01-17                     House Journal                      Page 1734
Enactment of this bill into law would protect Alaskans and help the                                                             
criminal justice system function fairly and at the same time more                                                               
efficiently.  I urge your prompt and favorable consideration of it.                                                             
                                Sarah Palin