Legislature(2007 - 2008)CAPITOL 120
04/13/2007 01:00 PM JUDICIARY
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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HB 225 - POSSESSION OF WEAPON WHILE ON BAIL 1:08:49 PM CHAIR RAMRAS announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 225, "An Act relating to misconduct involving weapons and bail." REPRESENTATIVE LYNN moved to adopt the proposed committee substitute (CS) for HB 225, Version 25-LS0710\M, Luckhaupt, 4/11/07, as the work draft. There being no objection, Version M was before the committee. 1:09:42 PM REPRESENTATIVE CRAIG JOHNSON, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor, relayed that under Version M of HB 225, it would be a felony for a person to possess a concealed firearm while he/she is on release, before or after trial, for the commission of a felony under AS 11, a crime against a person under AS 11.41, a crime involving domestic violence (DV), or a municipal crime similar to the latter two crimes; currently such behavior merely results in the person having his/her release revoked. He mentioned that HB 225 is endorsed by most law enforcement agencies in the state. CHAIR RAMRAS asked why the bill only addresses concealed weapons. REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON indicated that he didn't want the bill to apply in instances where the person on release is merely out hunting. The bill is meant to address instances wherein individuals on release for gang-related crimes commit further gang-related crimes involving concealed weapons. In response to a question, he relayed that he has not yet heard the National Rifle Association's (NRA) position on this legislation. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG questioned whether Section 3 of Version M contains a typo. 1:16:35 PM GERALD LUCKHAUPT, Attorney, Legislative Legal Counsel, Legislative Legal and Research Services, Legislative Affairs Agency (LAA), explained that it does not contain a typo, but rather was written to include all felonies under AS 11 - even those not committed against a person - and all crimes against a person under AS 11.41 - whether felony crimes or misdemeanor crimes. 1:17:49 PM REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL questioned whether, in applying to someone who has not yet been convicted of a crime, HB 225 would infringe upon a person's constitutional rights. JEANNE OSTNES, Staff to Representative Craig Johnson, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor, offered, on behalf of Representative Johnson, her understanding that a person would be charged with the crime created by HB 225 even if later he/she is found to be innocent of the original crime he/she was charged with and was on release for. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL urged caution in linking the proposed felony crime with the mere charge of a crime, particularly a misdemeanor crime. 1:20:25 PM GARDNER COBB, Captain, Anchorage Police Department (APD), Municipality of Anchorage (MOA), relayed that the APD supports HB 225. It is common knowledge, he remarked, that the gun per capita ratio in Alaska is high, though most of those guns are in the hands of law-abiding citizens; however, with the recent rise in violent crimes across the country and the surge in youth violence - including the scourge of gang motivated crimes - in Anchorage and other parts of the state, it is clear that resources should be focused in order to bring down the level of violence, and the APD believes that HB 225 can help law enforcement in this regard. He then recounted some of the steps the APD has taken in dealing with gang-related and gang- motivated crimes, and mentioned that since September of 2005, the APD has seized 74 guns that were out on the street. MR. COBB then referred to a recent, high-profile, gang-related case wherein in one of the defendants was released on bail and was later found in possession of a stolen semiautomatic pistol. He mentioned that because long guns are being used in gang- related case and DV cases, the APD would like to see the bill broadened to include all weapons even those found in a subject's vehicle. MR. COBB, offering that the APD views HB 225 as important legislation, noted that AS 12.30.023(a)(11)(A) says the court can order the defendant not to have a firearm in the defendant's possession or control, in any vehicle over which the defendant has control, or in the defendant's residence. He suggested that including such language in HB 225 would be helpful because once a suspect in a vehicle is stopped and is asked to step out of the vehicle, he/she simply hides his/her weapons in the vehicle. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG noted that AS 12.30.023(a)(11)(B) stipulates that the court can also order the defendant to not carry a knife other than an ordinary pocket knife, and asked Mr. Cobb whether he would like to see such a provision included in HB 225. MR. COBB said, "I would like to see a person out on bail for violent crimes and DV be restricted from any dangerous weapons within their immediate control." 1:28:05 PM WALT MONEGAN, Commissioner, Department of Public Safety (DPS), added that the DPS is happy with the current language in the bill. Regarding the concern that the bill would apply to someone who is charged but not yet convicted, he pointed out that the person would also only be charged with the crime provided for in HB 225, and thus there would still be due process afforded for both charges. House Bill 225, he remarked, will give law enforcement the ability to act in situations where a suspect released on bail is found carrying a concealed firearm. 1:29:46 PM ANNE CARPENETI, Assistant Attorney General, Legal Services Section-Juneau, Criminal Division, Department of Law (DOL), in response to the constitutional issue raised earlier, relayed that there are two reasons why HB 225 would not violate a person's constitutional right to keep and bear arms: the bill is limited to a person who is released on bail - thus there has been a probable cause determination that the person has committed a crime involving either violent or felonious behavior - and it's limited to the carrying of a concealed weapon. In response to comments and questions, she noted that probable cause is the standard that's used for all charges; that some property crimes can involve threats of violence; that the bill would apply in instances involving fourth degree assault because in such instances the victim could be placed in fear of being assaulted. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL suggested that the bill be amended to specify that it applies to higher-level crimes. CHAIR RAMRAS relayed that HB 225 [Version M] would be held over.