Legislature(1993 - 1994)

04/07/1993 01:00 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
  HB 119:  AUTHORIZE USE OF DAY FINES IN MISD. CASES                           
                                                                               
  Number 153                                                                   
                                                                               
  ART SNOWDEN, ADMINISTRATIVE DIRECTOR, ALASKA COURT SYSTEM,                   
  mentioned that his agency had researched day fines and                       
  written a report on them.  He said that the concept of day                   
  fines was not new, particularly in Europe, but was new to                    
  Alaska.  He noted that HB 119 envisioned using fines, rather                 
  than incarceration or other sanctions, as punishment for                     
  certain non-violent misdemeanors.  He said that day fines                    
  were based on both the seriousness of a crime and the income                 
  of the offender.  He added that day fines were the primary                   
  penalty used in Germany, Sweden, and other European                          
  countries.                                                                   
                                                                               
  Number 168                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. SNOWDEN noted that the Court System believed using day                   
  fines would have several advantages.  Unlike incarceration,                  
  he said, fines would generate revenue for municipalities and                 
  the state.  Also, he said, fines would be inexpensive to                     
  administer, compared to jail time or other sanctions.                        
  Additionally, fines were already used in some form in most                   
  courts, he said, so the additional burden of day fines would                 
  be small.                                                                    
                                                                               
  Number 183                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. SNOWDEN indicated the Court System's support for HB 119.                 
  He stated that it currently took the Court System eleven                     
  months to get a misdemeanant into jail in Anchorage, due to                  
  prison crowding.  He said that such unsure punishment would                  
  not deter anyone from doing anything.  He said that the                      
  judicial system was frustrated in trying to carry out the                    
  laws passed by the legislature.  However, he said that the                   
  judicial branch felt that not every crime demanded                           
  incarceration.                                                               
                                                                               
  MR. SNOWDEN mentioned that the use of day fines was being                    
  experimented with in several counties in the United States.                  
  He said that Alaska was facing a prison crisis, and should                   
  look into using day fines.                                                   
                                                                               
  Number 237                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE FRAN ULMER, PRIME SPONSOR of HB 119, stated                   
  that the bill would provide an additional option to                          
  sentencing judges.  She said that day fines would be used                    
  for misdemeanors other than crimes against a person.  She                    
  noted that one rationale behind HB 119 was to get money                      
  flowing into the treasury, instead of out of the treasury                    
  and into the correctional system.  She mentioned the current                 
  bed shortage in Alaska's prisons, and said that ten out of                   
  twelve of the state's prisons were full.  The state had to                   
  do many things to relieve the pressure, she said.  The                       
  imposition of day fines was one of those things, she stated.                 
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE ULMER commented that European countries had                   
  employed day fines for years.  Those countries incarcerated                  
  less, and had stiffer fines than the United States did, she                  
  said.  She commented that day fines would teach individuals                  
  that crime did not pay.  She questioned whether                              
  rehabilitation was accomplished by incarcerating an offender                 
  for several months.  She expressed her opinion that day                      
  fines were especially appropriate for non-violent, first                     
  offenders.                                                                   
                                                                               
  Number 302                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN believed that day fines would have                  
  a deterrent effect.  However, he expressed concerns about                    
  how day fines would work for unemployed or cyclically-                       
  employed offenders.                                                          
                                                                               
  Number 312                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE ULMER thought that day fines would work,                      
  regardless of when a person was employed.                                    
                                                                               
  Number 321                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked Mr. Snowden to address what would                 
  happen if a welfare recipient received a day fine.                           
                                                                               
  Number 325                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. SNOWDEN responded that day fines were so named because                   
  they were tailored to a particular individual's income.  The                 
  current system imposed similar fines on offenders for                        
  specific offenses regardless of their ability to pay.                        
  Consequently, he said, many fines now went unpaid.  He said                  
  that for welfare recipients, community service could be                      
  performed, in lieu of a monetary fine.                                       
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE ULMER commented that the Court System's study                 
  of day fines found them to be effective, even for low-income                 
  offenders.                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE GAIL PHILLIPS asked Representative Ulmer if                   
  the state had attempted to implement a day fine program in                   
  the past.                                                                    
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE ULMER replied in the negative.                                
                                                                               
  Number 352                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE NORDLUND thought that day fines were a good                   
  idea.  He expressed his opinion that static fines were                       
  ineffective.  He questioned whether the Court System would                   
  be able to collect the day fines.                                            
                                                                               
  Number 363                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. SNOWDEN noted that the Court System was currently not                    
  very successful in its efforts to collect fines.  Many                       
  people were unable to pay fines, he said, especially when                    
  they were incarcerated.  He said that the Department of Law                  
  now employed an attorney whose job it was to collect fines                   
  of over $250.  He noted that some day fines would definitely                 
  fall into that category.  Additionally, he said that the                     
  Court System was attempting to impose "electronic                            
  executions," whereby fines of even less than $250 could be                   
  paid through electronic transfers, reducing collection                       
  costs.                                                                       
                                                                               
  MR. SNOWDEN believed that the Court System would be more                     
  successful in collecting day fines than it currently was in                  
  collecting other types of fines.  He commented that in one                   
  study, researchers had found that 85% of day fines were paid                 
  in full, compared with 70% of other types of fines.  He                      
  hoped, if the day fine experiment worked, in the future non-                 
  violent class C felonies might be added to the list of                       
  crimes covered by day fines.                                                 
                                                                               
  Number 404                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS expressed her opinion that day fines                 
  were a very good idea.                                                       
                                                                               
  Number 409                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE ULMER called the committee's attention to a                   
  PROPOSED AMENDMENT, dated March 10, 1993, included in their                  
  bill packets.  She said that the amendment would try to                      
  address a concern that the legislature was giving too much                   
  latitude to the Court System in devising the day fine                        
  system.  The amendment would create a two-tiered day fine                    
  system, to reflect class A and class B misdemeanors.  She                    
  commented that she was willing to leave creation of the                      
  program up to the Court System's discretion, but she did not                 
  oppose adoption of the amendment.                                            
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE ULMER noted that the amendment addressed                      
  questions raised by the Legislative Affairs' Agency's                        
  Division of Legal Services.                                                  
                                                                               
  Number 434                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. SNOWDEN stated that the Court System supported the                       
  amendment.  He said that any new pilot project should have                   
  strict guidelines, which could be loosened in the future.                    
                                                                               
  Number 440                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS MOVED AMENDMENT NO. 1, dated March                   
  10, 1993.  There being no objection, the AMENDMENT WAS                       
  ADOPTED.                                                                     
                                                                               
  Number 452                                                                   
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN PORTER asked if the Court System would be precluded                 
  from employing other sanctions, if it chose to use day                       
  fines.                                                                       
                                                                               
  Number 456                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. SNOWDEN hoped day fines would be used as a primary                       
  penalty, but said that the Court System would not be                         
  precluded from employing other sanctions as well.                            
                                                                               
  Number 467                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE ULMER commented that a day fine would be an                   
  option for a judge, and part of a long list of sentencing                    
  options.  She stated that if the day fine option was chosen,                 
  it was envisioned as a "stand alone" sentencing choice, as                   
  opposed to being in addition to another type of sentence.                    
                                                                               
  Number 480                                                                   
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN PORTER understood that day fines were intended to                   
  serve as an alternative to jail time.  He could, however,                    
  see day fines working in concert with community work                         
  service.                                                                     
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE ULMER said that such a combination would not                  
  be precluded.                                                                
                                                                               
  MR. SNOWDEN commented that other types of fines would not be                 
  precluded, either.                                                           
                                                                               
  Number 487                                                                   
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN PORTER expressed concerns about imposing day fines                  
  on "youthful offenders," aged 18-25.  He commented that in                   
  many cases, parents paid fines for these youthful offenders.                 
  He asked if the Court System could assess such situations                    
  and make day fines commensurate with a parent's income,                      
  instead of the youthful offender's.                                          
                                                                               
  Number 495                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. SNOWDEN did not know the answer to the Chairman's                        
  question, but suspected that the Court System could not                      
  impose a day fine commensurate with a parent's income in                     
  that situation.                                                              
                                                                               
  Number 510                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE NORDLUND mentioned that HB 119 required that                  
  fines be paid within 180 days of their imposition.  He                       
  commented that, for very large fines, 180 days was a pretty                  
  short period of time.                                                        
                                                                               
  Number 518                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. SNOWDEN replied that the Court System wanted the day                     
  fines to "hurt."  Spreading a fine out over a longer period                  
  of time would make it hurt less, he said.                                    
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE JAMES made a MOTION to MOVE CSHB 119 (JUD)                    
  out of committee, with individual recommendations and                        
  attached fiscal notes.                                                       
                                                                               
  Number 532                                                                   
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN PORTER commented that HB 119 required the                           
  Department of Corrections (DOC) to submit an annual report                   
  on the day fine system.  He asked why the DOC was being                      
  asked to submit the report.                                                  
                                                                               
  Number 538                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE ULMER replied that the Court System might be                  
  a more appropriate agency to write the report.  She also                     
  suggested requiring that the first report be filed two years                 
  from the bill's enactment, instead of one year, as it would                  
  take some time for results to be known.                                      
                                                                               
  Number 548                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. SNOWDEN agreed with changing the reporting agency from                   
  the DOC to the Court System and delaying the date of the                     
  first report until two years after enactment of HB 119.                      
                                                                               
  Number 553                                                                   
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN PORTER OFFERED A CONCEPTUAL AMENDMENT making those                  
  two changes.                                                                 
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE ULMER and MR. SNOWDEN expressed their                         
  support.                                                                     
                                                                               
  Number 555                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS MOVED the AMENDMENT.  There being no                 
  objection, IT WAS ADOPTED.                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if there was any problem with the                 
  amendment showing 365 day units as a possible fine which                     
  needed to be paid within 180 days.                                           
                                                                               
  Number 568                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. SNOWDEN replied that, in his opinion, the language did                   
  not present a problem.                                                       
                                                                               
  Number 571                                                                   
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN PORTER explained that Representative Green was                      
  referring to the formula used for calculating day fines.                     
                                                                               
  Number 579                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE NORDLUND made a MOTION to MOVE CSHB 119                       
  (JUD), as amended, out of committee, with individual                         
  recommendations and attached fiscal notes.  There being no                   
  objection, IT WAS SO ORDERED.                                                
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN PORTER announced that the committee would take up                   
  HB 65 next.                                                                  
                                                                               

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