Legislature(1993 - 1994)

03/24/1993 01:00 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
  HB 28:  PENALTY FOR PROVIDING ALCOHOL TO A MINOR                             
                                                                               
  Number 356                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE BILL WILLIAMS, PRIME SPONSOR of HB 28,                        
  mentioned that a similar bill had been introduced the year                   
  before by former-Representative Cheri Davis, in response to                  
  the tragic alcohol-related deaths of two Ketchikan youths.                   
  He said that the purpose of the bill was to change the                       
  penalty for providing alcoholic beverages to persons under                   
  the age of 21.  He said that the crime of furnishing alcohol                 
  to a minor was currently a misdemeanor with a maximum                        
  penalty of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.  House Bill                   
  28, he said, would make the same crime a class C felony with                 
  a maximum jail sentence of five years and a maximum fine of                  
  $50,000.                                                                     
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE WILLIAMS commented that HB 28 would serve as                  
  a greater deterrent to those providing alcohol to minors.                    
                                                                               
  Number 395                                                                   
                                                                               
  JEANNEANE HENRY testified via teleconference from Ketchikan.                 
  She mentioned that Kathy Blauser, Director of Ketchikan                      
  Youth Services, was unable to be present, but wished to                      
  convey her organization's wholehearted support for HB 28.                    
                                                                               
  MS. HENRY is the mother of one of the boys who was killed in                 
  1991, after an adult provided a gallon of vodka to him and                   
  four other youths.  She said that the man who purchased the                  
  vodka was arrested, sentenced, and then left the community                   
  after serving part of his sentence.  She mentioned that the                  
  man had previously been sentenced in Oregon, to receive                      
  alcohol screening and treatment.  However, due to a lack of                  
  monitoring, the man never received the treatment and left                    
  Oregon for Ketchikan.  She said that if Oregon officials had                 
  monitored the man, her son might be alive today.                             
                                                                               
  Number 440                                                                   
                                                                               
  MS. HENRY said that adults giving children drugs was a                       
  serious crime that violated the rights of children to be                     
  protected by their parents and by the community.  She said                   
  that many adults willingly provided alcohol to minors.  She                  
  commented that one month after the man who had provided her                  
  son with alcohol was sentenced, another man provided alcohol                 
  to a minor, who was killed as a result.  She said that                       
  children deserved more protection than the current law                       
  offered.  She urged support for HB 28.                                       
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVES NORDLUND and PHILLIPS joined the committee.                  
                                                                               
  Number 474                                                                   
                                                                               
  SUE PICKRELL, a drug prevention specialist with ALASKANS FOR                 
  DRUG-FREE YOUTH, testified via teleconference from                           
  Ketchikan.  She urged the committee to pass out HB 28.  She                  
  is a former police officer, who had often investigated minor                 
  consuming cases.  She said that teenagers would often not                    
  tell law enforcement officers who had purchased alcohol for                  
  them, making arrests and prosecutions of adults difficult.                   
  She said that making a second offense of providing alcohol                   
  to a minor a felony was not out-of-line.  She said that it                   
  would send a clear message to adults that furnishing alcohol                 
  to minors would no longer be tolerated.                                      
                                                                               
  Number 493                                                                   
                                                                               
  LYNDA ADAMS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ALASKANS FOR DRUG-FREE                      
  YOUTH, testified via teleconference from Ketchikan.  She                     
  mentioned that the bill introduced by former-Representative                  
  Cheri Davis had contained two components that were not                       
  included in HB 28.  She suggested putting those two                          
  components back into the bill.  One would require that signs                 
  regarding the penalties for furnishing alcohol to a minor be                 
  posted in bars and liquor stores.  The other section                         
  provided that a minor who solicited an adult to purchase                     
  alcohol for him or her would be guilty of a misdemeanor.                     
                                                                               
  MS. ADAMS noted that the second provision would place some                   
  responsibility on the minor.  She expressed her opinion that                 
  HB 28 was an effective tool for reducing alcohol consumption                 
  among youth.  She urged the committee to pass the bill.                      
                                                                               
  Number 523                                                                   
                                                                               
  JOHN SALEMI, DIRECTOR, PUBLIC DEFENDER AGENCY, testified via                 
  teleconference from Anchorage.  He said that passage of HB
  28 would have a fiscal impact on his agency.  He expressed                   
  his opinion that everyone could agree that alcohol was a                     
  drug, and was commonly abused by youth in our society,                       
  creating tremendous suffering.  He commented that alcohol                    
  was a prevalent part of the social fabric in our society.                    
  He said that disagreement existed with regard to what effect                 
  HB 28 would have on the social problem of youth and alcohol.                 
  He stated that his agency felt that HB 28 would not have the                 
  desired impact of addressing the real problem of alcohol                     
  abuse.                                                                       
                                                                               
  MR. SALEMI noted that not all social problems were                           
  susceptible to elimination or reduction through the passage                  
  of laws.  He mentioned the federal Prohibition Law, which                    
  had significant penalties, but was consistently violated.                    
  He stated that in past hearings, HB 28 had been promoted as                  
  a means of deterring adults from furnishing liquor to                        
  minors.  He said that if he thought HB 28 would serve as a                   
  deterrent, he would support it.  However, he said that over                  
  the last ten years in Alaska, it had been found that                         
  enhancing penalties was not a guarantee that people would be                 
  less likely to engage in criminal conduct.                                   
                                                                               
  MR. SALEMI commented that the Alaska criminal laws had been                  
  completely overhauled, yet crime was on the rise, and prison                 
  populations continued to grow.  He said that the problem was                 
  that in many instances, crime was a thoughtless and                          
  impulsive act, and an offender did not necessarily consider                  
  the consequences of his or her actions.  He questioned the                   
  value of stiff penalties and sentences.                                      
                                                                               
  MR. SALEMI anticipated, based on DOL estimates, that HB 28                   
  would result in the Public Defender Agency handling an                       
  additional 75-100 felony cases per year.  Based on national                  
  caseload standards, he said, that would mean that his agency                 
  would require an additional half-time attorney and some                      
  support staff.  He said that his agency's current staff                      
  simply could not absorb the increased caseload that would                    
  result from HB 28.                                                           
                                                                               
  MR. SALEMI suggested an alternative to HB 28.  He said that                  
  furnishing alcohol to a minor was already a crime, with a                    
  maximum penalty of up to one year in prison and a $5,000                     
  fine.  He recommended that judges be educated about the need                 
  to impose maximum penalties on those who furnished alcohol                   
  to minors.  Additionally, he suggested that liquor stores                    
  post notices stating that it was a crime for adults to                       
  furnish alcohol to minors, and stating the penalties for                     
  committing that crime.  He commented that the state might                    
  already have adequate laws on the books, but simply needed                   
  to educate judges and inform potential violators of the                      
  consequences of their actions.                                               
                                                                               
  Number 647                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE JAMES asked Mr. Salemi how increasing the                     
  penalty for an existing crime would increase the number of                   
  cases handled by his agency.                                                 
                                                                               
  Number 653                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. SALEMI replied that HB 28 would change the character of                  
  cases that his agency received.  He noted that the DOL had                   
  estimated there were about 200 cases of adults furnishing                    
  alcohol to minors every year, and that 100 of those cases                    
  could be prosecuted as felony offenses, if HB 28 was                         
  enacted.  That, he said, meant cases that his agency now                     
  handled as misdemeanors would become felonies, which                         
  entailed much more work.                                                     
                                                                               
  Number 679                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE KOTT asked Mr. Salemi if increasing the                       
  penalty for furnishing alcohol to a minor to life                            
  imprisonment would serve as a deterrent, in light of Mr.                     
  Salemi's earlier questioning of the deterrent value of                       
  increasing penalties for furnishing alcohol to minors.                       
                                                                               
  Number 686                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. SALEMI responded that if penalties were grave enough for                 
  all crimes, society might eventually see some deterrent                      
  effect.  The question then became, he said, what was society                 
  willing to spend in order to achieve that deterrent effect?                  
  He stated that capital punishment or life imprisonment would                 
  likely result in some deterrent effect, but the issue was                    
  whether or not offenders would process that information, if                  
  they knew it at all, at the time they were considering                       
  committing the crime.                                                        
                                                                               
  Number 705                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE KOTT asked Mr. Salemi to comment on the                       
  potential deterrent effect of posting signs in liquor                        
  stores, stating what the penalties were for providing                        
  alcohol to minors.                                                           
                                                                               
  Number 711                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. SALEMI said that he had mentioned posting signs in                       
  liquor stores, because in reviewing his notes from when                      
  HB 28 was heard in the House Health, Education and Social                    
  Services (HESS) Committee, proponents of the bill had                        
  mentioned adding a section to HB 28 requiring the posting of                 
  signs.  He did not necessarily agree that posting signs                      
  would have a deterrent effect.  However, he said that under                  
  current law, signs could be posted in liquor stores.  He                     
  said that posting signs certainly would not hurt, and would                  
  cost very little money.                                                      
                                                                               
  Number 731                                                                   
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN PORTER mentioned that someone had testified earlier                 
  that HB 28 would only apply to second and subsequent                         
  convictions for furnishing alcohol to minors.  However, he                   
  clarified for committee members that the bill would also                     
  affect first-time offenders.  He asked Mr. Salemi if a                       
  person convicted of a misdemeanor for furnishing alcohol to                  
  a minor could be subject to civil litigation.                                
                                                                               
  Number 734                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. SALEMI replied that nothing that had occurred in                         
  criminal court would preclude an injured party or his or her                 
  family from filing a civil action.  He stated that a                         
  criminal court could also order restitution, upon conviction                 
  of an individual.                                                            
                                                                               
  Number 748                                                                   
                                                                               
  MS. HENRY stated that, as the mother of a child who was                      
  killed after an adult furnished him with alcohol, a penalty                  
  of life imprisonment for that adult would be fine with her.                  
  However, she said that she knew that that was impractical.                   
  She recommended putting some "meat" into the current law and                 
  sending a clear message to adults that it was not acceptable                 
  to furnish minors with alcohol.  She stated that providing                   
  alcohol to minors was a serious crime.  She indicated that                   
  in many cases, civil litigation did not work, as offenders                   
  were sometimes indigent.  She stated that making the crime a                 
  misdemeanor did not send a strong enough message to society.                 
                                                                               
  Number 793                                                                   
                                                                               
  MS. KNUTH stated that making Alaska a "dry" state would                      
  result in much less crime and suffering.  She said that a                    
  very substantial percentage of crimes committed were                         
  alcohol-related.  She added that there was a double standard                 
  when it came to alcohol in our society.  Parents did not                     
  want their children to drink, she said, yet the parents                      
  would not stop drinking themselves.  Not only was it legal                   
  for children to start drinking once they turned 21, she                      
  said, but it also was not a crime for parents to furnish                     
  alcohol to their own children.                                               
                                                                               
  Number 805                                                                   
                                                                               
  MS. KNUTH noted the existing disparity between adults                        
  lawfully providing alcohol to their own children, and adults                 
  illegally providing alcohol to other minors.  House Bill 28,                 
  she said, would create an even greater disparity.  She                       
  commented that making the furnishing of alcohol to minors a                  
  felony offense might not have the desired effect.  Now, she                  
  said, furnishing alcohol to a minor was a serious                            
  misdemeanor, one taken very seriously by judges, and                         
  punished rather severely.  If the crime was changed to be a                  
  felony, she continued, offenders would be brought before                     
  superior court judges instead of district court judges.                      
                                                                               
  Number 830                                                                   
                                                                               
  MS. KNUTH said that in comparison to other crimes that                       
  superior court judges saw, furnishing alcohol to a minor                     
  would seem like a pretty minor offense.                                      
                                                                               
  TAPE 93-40, SIDE B                                                           
  Number 000                                                                   
                                                                               
  MS. KNUTH stated that the effect of HB 28 would probably be                  
  that offenders would serve even less jail time than they did                 
  now.  She said that Representative Cheri Davis' bill had                     
  proposed making second and subsequent offenses felonies.                     
  She again mentioned that making the crime a felony at all                    
  was troublesome to her.  She commented that a situation in                   
  which furnishing alcohol to a minor resulted in that minor's                 
  death could result in an adult being prosecuted for                          
  homicide.  She commented that the Ketchikan case was a                       
  tragedy.                                                                     
                                                                               
  Number 042                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE JAMES asked Ms. Knuth to comment on the                       
  social stigma associated with being a felon, and its                         
  deterrent value.                                                             
                                                                               
  Number 057                                                                   
                                                                               
  MS. KNUTH stated that being labeled a felon had a                            
  significant impact on non-indigent individuals, as it made                   
  it difficult for a person to get a job.  Yet she did not                     
  know that it would have any deterrent effect because                         
  offenders, in her view, did not consider the consequences                    
  prior to furnishing alcohol to minors.  She expressed doubt                  
  that people would know that the crime was a felony.  The                     
  criminal mentality, she said, was very limited, and                          
  offenders did not expect to get caught.                                      
                                                                               
  Number 083                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE JAMES asked Ms. Knuth to express her opinion                  
  on posting signs in liquor stores.                                           
                                                                               
  Number 097                                                                   
                                                                               
  MS. KNUTH was aware of signs already in liquor stores, which                 
  stated that minors were not allowed on the premises.  She                    
  said that if those signs did not make a person furnishing                    
  alcohol to a minor think about his or her actions, she was                   
  not sure that a new sign would serve as a deterrent.  She                    
  said that a large part of the problem was that many people                   
  did not feel that furnishing alcohol to minors was an                        
  inherently bad thing, as evidenced by the large number of                    
  adults who were willing to provide alcohol to minors.                        
                                                                               
  Number 126                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE JIM NORDLUND asked Ms. Knuth if a parent                      
  could be prosecuted for a situation in which his or her                      
  child, accompanied by another minor, raided that parent's                    
  liquor cabinet, unbeknownst to the parent.                                   
                                                                               
  Number 139                                                                   
                                                                               
  MS. KNUTH replied that that parent could be prosecuted,                      
  although the prosecution would be difficult.                                 
                                                                               
  Number 155                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE NORDLUND stated that under HB 28, then, a                     
  parent in that situation could be subject to a five-year                     
  prison sentence.                                                             
                                                                               
  MS. KNUTH concurred.                                                         
                                                                               
  Number 159                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE KOTT asked what the mean sentence was for                     
  violation of the current law regarding furnishing alcohol to                 
  minors.                                                                      
                                                                               
  Number 166                                                                   
                                                                               
  MS. KNUTH did not have that information with her.                            
                                                                               
  Number 174                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE KOTT asked if the state had any data                          
  pertaining to what type of people furnished alcohol to                       
  minors.                                                                      
                                                                               
  Number 184                                                                   
                                                                               
  MS. KNUTH replied that two classes of people would be                        
  subjected to liability under HB 28's provisions.  The first                  
  class was liquor store clerks, she said, easily caught and                   
  prosecuted.  However, she said that those people were not                    
  whom HB 28 meant to target.  With regard to non-liquor store                 
  clerks, she suspected that offenders would be more                           
  responsible than the average defendant in criminal court.                    
  She said that most defendants would probably believe they                    
  were not doing any harm by providing alcohol to minors.                      
                                                                               
  Number 222                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE KOTT asked if a Department of Corrections                     
  (DOC) representative could explain that agency's fiscal                      
  note.                                                                        
                                                                               
  Number 228                                                                   
                                                                               
  DANA LATOUR, SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE COMMISSIONER OF THE                    
  DOC, described how she had prepared the fiscal note on                       
  HB 28.  She called the members' attention to the third                       
  paragraph on page 2 of the DOC's fiscal note.  She said                      
  that, for the purposes of the fiscal note, she had assumed                   
  that the lowest mean sentence for a class C felony of this                   
  type was 7.5 months, or 225 bed days.  The average mean                      
  sentence for a class A misdemeanor, as providing alcohol to                  
  a minor currently was, was 1.5 months, or 45 days, she                       
  added.                                                                       
                                                                               
  Number 265                                                                   
                                                                               
  MS. LATOUR said that by raising the offense from a class A                   
  misdemeanor to a class C felony, offenders would receive                     
  sentences of an additional 180 days.  Subtracting one-third                  
  of that sentence for "good time," she said, left an increase                 
  of 120 days.  Multiplying 120 bed days by 100 convictions (a                 
  figure that she got from the DOL), by the average cost of                    
  incarceration at a community residential center, $50 per                     
  day, she arrived at the cost of HB 28 at $600,000 per year.                  
                                                                               
  Number 281                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE KOTT asked how she had arrived at the mean                    
  sentence of 45 days for the class A misdemeanor for                          
  providing alcohol to a minor.                                                
                                                                               
  Number 294                                                                   
                                                                               
  MS. LATOUR replied that the 45-day figure was based somewhat                 
  on assumption.  She said that she had spoken with many                       
  experts to determine how long these offenders served.                        
                                                                               
  Number 306                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE KOTT commented that the correctional data                     
  information system in the state needed to be improved.                       
                                                                               
  Number 313                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked Ms. Latour if the DOC's fiscal                    
  note would be less, in light of Ms. Knuth's testimony that                   
  elevating the crime from a misdemeanor to a felony might                     
  result in judges handing down shorter sentences.                             
                                                                               
  Number 342                                                                   
                                                                               
  MS. LATOUR did not know how Ms. Knuth's theory would impact                  
  the DOC's fiscal note.                                                       
                                                                               
  Number 351                                                                   
                                                                               
  JIM FISK testified via teleconference from Kodiak.  He has                   
  been involved in the liquor business for over 40 years, and                  
  said that the problem of minor consuming was an age-old                      
  problem that started at home.  He stated that all the                        
  legislation in the world would not stop minors from                          
  drinking.  He said that the education process needed to                      
  begin at home and in the schools.                                            
                                                                               
  Number 378                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. FISK added that Alaska was unique in its approach of                     
  having the legislature, the Alcoholic Beverage Control                       
  Board, and the liquor industry work together to bring about                  
  the use of alcohol management techniques.  He cited a bill                   
  that would require alcohol dispensers to pass an alcohol                     
  management course.  He asserted that the state could not                     
  simply post signs and expect deterrence.  He indicated his                   
  lack of support for HB 28.                                                   
                                                                               
  Number 416                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE JAMES made a MOTION to MOVE HB 28 out of                      
  committee with individual recommendations and accompanying                   
  fiscal notes.                                                                
                                                                               
  Number 422                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE NORDLUND OBJECTED.                                            
                                                                               
  Number 430                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE KOTT OBJECTED for the purpose of taking an                    
  "at ease" at 2:18 p.m.  The committee then reconvened at                     
  2:19 p.m.                                                                    
                                                                               
  Number 436                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE JAMES WITHDREW her MOTION to MOVE HB 28 out                   
  of committee.                                                                
                                                                               
  Number 439                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE KOTT stated that he would WITHDRAW his                        
  OBJECTION.                                                                   
                                                                               
  Number 440                                                                   
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN PORTER noted that with the motion withdrawn, the                    
  objections were already removed.  He said that during the                    
  brief "at ease," it had come to his attention that it was                    
  the will of the committee that HB 28 needed work.    He                      
  APPOINTED A SUBCOMMITTEE consisting of Representatives                       
  Phillips, Kott, and Nordlund to consider amendments to HB
  28.  He asked the subcommittee to bring the bill back before                 
  the committee as soon as they had done their work.                           
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN PORTER announced that the committee would address                   
  HB 168 next.                                                                 
                                                                               

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