Legislature(1995 - 1996)

04/05/1995 01:12 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 HB 10 - PAYMENT OF COSTS OF DWI ACCIDENTS                                 
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE JOHN DAVIES, bill sponsor, introduced HB 10.  It               
 requires driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenders convicted of               
 causing a motor vehicle accident to pay for the cost of emergency             
 services responders to that accident.  The problems and associated            
 costs of driving while intoxicated are clear.  According to                   
 national statistics, 43 percent of all fatal motor vehicle                    
 accidents involve alcohol.  According to the Department of Public             
 Safety, 40 percent of all DWI arrests involve repeat offenders.               
 Furthermore, alcohol related accidents nationwide result in                   
 economic costs of $46.1 billion per year, according to United                 
 States Transportation Department in 1990.  HB 10 attempts to                  
 address these problems in two ways.  First, as a deterrent to those           
 who drive while intoxicated, by raising the financial penalty for             
 doing so.  By raising the financial burden to those breaking the              
 law, HB 10 emphasizes the seriousness of the crime.  Secondly, this           
 bill shifts the financial responsibility of emergency services from           
 the law abiding, tax paying citizens to the convicted DWI offender.           
 There are three states, California, Indiana, and Kansas that have             
 already enacted similar reimbursement laws.                                   
                                                                               
 Number 090                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE CYNTHIA TOOHEY asked what would happen if the person           
 was indigent.                                                                 
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES said what would happen is the same thing that           
 happens now in other types of cases.  If there is a court judgment            
 against a person who is unable to pay or has relatively small                 
 resources, the court will agree to a payment schedule of $10 per              
 month, or whatever the person can afford.                                     
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY thought we should be able to attach the                 
 permanent fund to this.  They should be held responsible.                     
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE AL VEZEY asked if they had looked into the process             
 of issuing a court order to pay a third party in a criminal                   
 proceeding, as opposed to a civil proceeding.                                 
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES said they did have lawyers look it over.                
 Some municipalities actually have a similar law now allowing courts           
 to issue a bench warrant, and so it would add a little bit of clout           
 behind the billing.                                                           
                                                                               
 DAVE TYLER testified via teleconference, representing the Alaska              
 Fire Chief's Association.  DWIs do create lots of types of                    
 tragedies, people are left crippled, and property is destroyed.               
 Other issues that do not generally come to light and are not so               
 obvious, are the risks to responders and the costs involved.  It is           
 quite hard on our responders.  For example, when a woman is killed            
 in an accident it is real hard to give an answer when a husband               
 comes up and asks how the wife is doing.  This really causes a lot            
 of stress.  We also have the physical hazards, such as fire hazards           
 when attending to vehicle accidents.  Another possibility that                
 exists is the exposure to bloodborne pathogens.  Emergency                    
 responders go through hours and hours of training to learn how to             
 handle these situations safely.  We realize this all goes with the            
 job, but the criminals should somehow be held accountable for their           
 actions.                                                                      
                                                                               
 Number 220                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE CON BUNDE said he was very supportive of what the              
 sponsor was trying to do and has little patience for DWI offenders.           
 He asked if Representative Davies could see this law broadening out           
 to include reckless driving.  Why should someone who is drunk and             
 cause this expense be more liable than someone who is reckless and            
 causes the expense?                                                           
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES said that was a good question.  We had                  
 thought about generalizing the bill, but as you know, this bill               
 only amends the drunk driving statute, and so it is limited to that           
 arena.  One might fairly consider those other things.  We wanted to           
 keep this particular bill focused narrowly on the DWI issue.  He              
 felt this reasoning was justified because of the very large number            
 of accidents that are caused by drunk drivers (40 - 50 percent of             
 fatal accidents).                                                             
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY made a motion to move CSHB 10(STA) out of                
 committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal                 
 notes.  Hearing no objection, it was so ordered.                              
                                                                               

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