Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/07/2003 01:02 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 12 - HARASSMENT BY ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION                                                                                
Number 0044                                                                                                                     
CHAIR McGUIRE  announced that the  first order of  business would                                                               
be HOUSE BILL NO. 12, "An Act relating to harassment."                                                                          
Number 0063                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  moved to  adopt the  proposed committee                                                               
substitute  (CS)  for  HB  12,  version  23-LS0050\D,  Luckhaupt,                                                               
1/22/03, as the work draft.   There being no objection, Version D                                                               
was before the committee.                                                                                                       
Number 0089                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  KEVIN MEYER,  Alaska State  Legislature, sponsor,                                                               
explained that  Version D changes the  title of HB 12  so that it                                                               
now reads:                                                                                                                      
     "An act relating to the crime of harassment committed                                                                      
     by use of electronic communication."                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  MEYER went  on  to  say that  HB  12 merely  adds                                                               
"electronic   communication"   to   the   list   detailing   what                                                               
constitutes the  crime of harassment.   Current statute  does not                                                               
provide law  enforcement with the  necessary tools with  which to                                                               
pursue people  who harass  others via  electronic communications.                                                               
Harassment via electronic communication,  he remarked, has become                                                               
an inexpensive and  attractive method of harassment  for many who                                                               
are unwilling to face, either in  person or over the phone, those                                                               
they are harassing.   He also remarked that in  addition to being                                                               
a serious crime  on its own, harassing others is  often a prelude                                                               
to more  serious crimes.   He  opined that HB  12 will  create an                                                               
important  tool  for  law enforcement  officers  as  they  pursue                                                               
perpetrators who use electronic  communications to harass others.                                                               
Representative Meyer urged members to support HB 12.                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  noted that he has  a proposed amendment                                                               
that will,  on line  12, after "or",  add "obscene",  and provide                                                               
for some grammatical adjustments.                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE MEYER said that he supports such an amendment.                                                                   
Number 0381                                                                                                                     
LEO  BRANDLEN,  President,  Board   of  Directors,  Alaska  Peace                                                               
Officers Association (APOA),  said simply that the  APOA has sent                                                               
a letter of  support to the committee, and is  in support of both                                                               
HB 12 and  the suggested amendment.  He observed  that HB 12 will                                                               
cover both e-mails and "text messaging."                                                                                        
Number 0495                                                                                                                     
RICHARD RHEA, Anchorage Police  Department (APD), Municipality of                                                               
Anchorage (MOA), said simply that he supports HB 12.                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  noted that  the committee  has received                                                               
Mr. Rhea's letter.                                                                                                              
Number 0543                                                                                                                     
ANNE  CARPENETI,  Assistant   Attorney  General,  Legal  Services                                                               
Section-Juneau,  Criminal  Division,  Department  of  Law  (DOL),                                                               
remarked that  the DOL supports  HB 12.   She suggested  that the                                                               
proposed amendment  be altered  such that,  after "call"  on line                                                               
12,  insert  ", obscene  electronic  communication,".   She  also                                                               
remarked that most  of the e-mail communications  in question are                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  expressed  a willingness  to  consider                                                               
that language in place of his original suggestion.                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON,  after reading  the language  in current                                                               
statute,  the language  in Version  D,  and the  language in  the                                                               
DOL's  suggested language  change,  asked whether  the intent  of                                                               
that  suggested  language  is  to  separate  "obscene  electronic                                                               
communication" from "anonymous".                                                                                                
[Ms. Carpeneti nodded yes.]                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  ANDERSON  referred  to   page  10  of  a  handout                                                               
provided to  the committee titled "1999  Report on Cyberstalking:                                                               
A New Challenge for Law Enforcement  and Industry."  He said that                                                               
according to  the second paragraph  on page 10 under  the heading                                                               
"Law  enforcement response:   the  challenge  of anonymity,"  one                                                               
form of anonymous  service is established via  a false electronic                                                               
mailbox.  From that same paragraph  on page 10 he then read, "The                                                               
second  form  comprises  mail  servers  that  purposefully  strip                                                               
identifying  information and  transport  headers from  electronic                                                               
mail."    He relayed  that  the  report  goes  on to  talk  about                                                               
"remailers,"  in  which  "you  go from  one  account  to  another                                                               
account to  another account, and  then you  can't trace it."   He                                                               
asked whether  the suggested language  would restrict HB  12 from                                                               
applying to anonymous e-mails such as remailers.                                                                                
MS.  CARPENETI offered  her belief  that the  suggested amendment                                                               
would preclude  HB 12 from  applying to anonymous e-mails.   "The                                                               
amendment would  only make it  harassment under a (a)(4)  to send                                                               
electronic  communications  that  are  ... obscene  or  ...  that                                                               
threaten physical injury," she added.                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE MEYER indicated that he  agreed with the intent of                                                               
the  suggested  amendment.    He  mentioned  that  the  Anchorage                                                               
Assembly has already "passed" similar language.                                                                                 
MS.  CARPENETI, in  response to  further questions  regarding the                                                               
intent of the legislation and  the suggested amendment, explained                                                               
that with  anonymous e-mails, it  would be difficult to  find and                                                               
prove,  beyond a  reasonable doubt,  that the  author intends  to                                                               
harass the recipient.                                                                                                           
Number 1012                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  mentioned a  recent U.S.  Supreme Court                                                               
case  that said  there is  a constitutional  right for  anonymous                                                               
editorials, and that the right of  free speech - and in that case                                                               
free press as an adjunct -  implies and carries with it the right                                                               
to do so anonymously.  The key  thing [with HB 12], he noted, "is                                                               
that  you   have  the   criminal  intent."     From   a  strictly                                                               
constitutional  point of  view,  he  said, he  is  glad that  law                                                               
enforcement does  not pursue authors of  anonymous e-mails simply                                                               
because  the  e-mails  annoy  somebody;  for  example,  political                                                               
statements can be annoying to some people.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON referred to  page 6 of the aforementioned                                                               
report  and noted  that under  the heading  "Actual Cyberstalking                                                               
Incidents,"  it  mentions the  use  of  Internet chat  rooms  and                                                               
online bulletin  boards in  stalking incidents.   He  pointed out                                                               
that  under  this  same  heading  there  is  also  mention  of  a                                                               
prosecutor  in   Massachusetts  charging   a  man   who  utilized                                                               
anonymous  remailers to  systematically harass  a co-worker.   So                                                               
this does occur and there is prosecution for it, he remarked.                                                                   
MS.  CARPENETI remarked  that  Alaska  statutes already  prohibit                                                               
stalking,  and  ventured that  such  examples  as listed  in  the                                                               
report  might qualify  as stalking  itself.   She  said that  she                                                               
would research that issue further.   Harassment, she pointed out,                                                               
is a class  B misdemeanor.  In response to  further comments, she                                                               
mentioned  that  statutes  addressing cybercrimes  have  recently                                                               
been enacted.                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  ANDERSON raised  the issue  of defining  the term                                                               
"electronic communication".   He noted  that it is  not currently                                                               
defined in either the bill or  Title 11.  He recommended that the                                                               
committee  draft  a letter  of  intent  that clarifies  what  the                                                               
committee views as an "electronic communication".                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE MEYER remarked  that he would welcome  a letter of                                                               
Number 1304                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  McGUIRE noted  that currently,  "electronic communication"                                                               
is  defined  in   Title  42;  she  opined,   however,  that  this                                                               
definition is too broad and doesn't  really apply to the issue at                                                               
hand.   She remarked that simply  creating a letter of  intent is                                                               
fine with her.                                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  suggested that because  law enforcement                                                               
officials,  the  court  system,  and  the  general  public  won't                                                               
necessarily  be   aware  that  there   is  a  letter   of  intent                                                               
stipulating  exactly  what  is  meant  by  the  term  "electronic                                                               
communication, it would  be better to define the  term within the                                                               
[proposed]  statute  itself.    By  doing  so,  he  posited,  the                                                               
committee will be  assured that all parties will  define the term                                                               
as intended.                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLM suggested  that any  definition created  now                                                               
may quickly become  obsolete and not inclusive  enough, and might                                                               
thus require constant alterations.                                                                                              
CHAIR  McGUIRE, on  that point,  said that  rather than  having a                                                               
narrow  definition in  the statute,  she would  prefer to  have a                                                               
letter  of   intent  that  contains  a   "living"  definition  of                                                               
"electronic communication" such that it  would be as inclusive as                                                               
possible while still allowing for technological advances.                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  suggested,  then, that  the  committee                                                               
ought to consider  the suggested amendment, pass the  bill out of                                                               
committee, and  have staff spend  the next few days  creating the                                                               
letter of  intent so  that it  can then be  included in  the bill                                                               
packet as it continues through the process.                                                                                     
Number 1566                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  ANDERSON  made  a  motion to  adopt  Amendment  1                                                               
[original punctuation  provided; current line numbers  pertain to                                                               
the original bill and may need to be changed to fit Version D]:                                                                 
     Page 1, lines 11 - 13:                                                                                                     
          Delete all material and insert:                                                                                       
          "(4) makes an anonymous or obscene telephone                                                                          
     call, obscene electronic  communication, or a telephone                                                                
     call   or  electronic   communication  that   threatens                                                                
     physical injury; or"                                                                                                       
CHAIR  McGUIRE  asked  whether   there  were  any  objections  to                                                               
Amendment 1.  There being no objection, Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                
Number 1583                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  McGUIRE  then  directed  members   of  staff  to  form  "a                                                               
subcommittee of  intent," the  duty of which  shall be  to create                                                               
the letter of intent, which can  then be added to the bill packet                                                               
in time to go to the House floor.                                                                                               
Number 1606                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG moved  to report the proposed  CS for HB                                                               
12, version  23-LS0050\D, Luckhaupt, 1/22/03, as  amended, out of                                                               
committee  with  individual   recommendations,  the  accompanying                                                               
fiscal  notes, [and  the forthcoming  letter of  intent].   There                                                               
being  no objection,  CSHB 12(JUD)  was reported  from the  House                                                               
Judiciary Standing Committee.                                                                                                   

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