Legislature(2007 - 2008)CAPITOL 120
02/20/2008 01:00 PM JUDICIARY
Download Mp3. <- Right click and save file as
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 359 - PROBATION AND MINOR CONSUMING 1:05:18 PM CHAIR RAMRAS announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 359, "An Act relating to probation and the offense of minor consuming or in possession or control of alcohol." 1:05:54 PM REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM moved to adopt the proposed committee substitute (CS) for HB 359, Version 25-LS1377\M, Luckhaupt, 2/20/08, as the work draft. There being no objection, Version M was before the committee. CHAIR RAMRAS noted that HB 359 was sponsored by the House Judiciary Standing Committee. 1:06:47 PM EMILY BEATLEY, Staff to Representative Jay Ramras, Alaska State Legislature, on behalf of Representative Ramras, chair of the House Judiciary Standing Committee, sponsor, presented HB 359. She explained that under the current statute pertaining to minor consuming, the court is required to automatically place a convicted person on probation for one year from the date of conviction or until the person reaches the age of 21, whichever is later. House Bill 359 proposes to add a new [subsection] to AS 04.16.50, giving the courts the authority to terminate the probation of someone convicted of minor consuming - unless he/she is a habitual repeat offender - if he/she meets the conditions of probation set forth by the court and continuance of probation would interfere with the person's rehabilitation and growth. MS. BEATLEY said that HB 359 was specifically drafted as a "betterment" bill, and is not specific to those applying for the military, although research indicates that this is a large issue. Others who might also benefit from HB 359 are those seeking entrance into certain colleges, and university students traveling into or through Canada for sporting events. Under the bill, all who are convicted and serving probation for minor consuming - except for habitual repeat offenders - would be eligible for probation termination via petition to the court. The belief is, she relayed, that the bill will provide additional incentive to those convicted of minor consuming to succeed while on probation. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said he strongly supports HB 359. He asked whether the term "growth" as used on page 2, line 3, would cause the courts difficulty. MS. BEATLEY offered her belief that it would be up to the courts to interpret that term. 1:10:15 PM DOUG WOOLIVER, Administrative Attorney, Administrative Staff, Office of the Administrative Director, Alaska Court System (ACS), said he doesn't know what "growth" means, but surmised that it was included in the bill to give judges discretion beyond just rehabilitative goals, and that how judges interpret that term will vary and be closely tied to the specifics of the defendant. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said he would hope that the courts would be able to apply common sense and thus alleviate the need for the legislature to define the term. MR. WOOLIVER agreed. In response to a question, he offered his recollection that historically, there have been about 4,000 minor consuming charges filed each year, but he doesn't know how many end in convictions or how many of those charged are on probation at any given time, though he estimated that the number of the latter is probably in the thousands. He noted that Version M somewhat narrows the category of who could petition the court to have his/her probation terminated - the procedure would be much like a suspended imposition of sentence (SIS) procedure - but he is unable to estimate at this time how many might petition the court. CHAIR RAMRAS offered that the impetus behind [the bill] is that as long as the State of Alaska "has its thumb on one of these minors, the U.S. government can't own them"; as such, "the best vocational rehab program available across the country" is not available to some of the youth who might most benefit from it. REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS questioned Ms. Beatley's use of the term, "habitual," and whether the bill would apply only to first time offenders. MS. BEATLEY explained that AS 04.16.050(d) currently says in part, "A person is guilty of habitual minor consuming or in possession or control if the person was placed on probation under (c) of this section, or has been previously convicted twice", and that a reference to subsection (d) was specifically left out of the bill so as to exclude those who fit in that category. In response to a question, she offered her understanding that the procedure provided by the bill could be used by someone who only had one prior conviction for minor consuming but not by someone who had two prior convictions. 1:14:42 PM JOSHUA FINK, Director, Anchorage Office, Office of Public Advocacy (OPA), Department of Administration (DOA), opined that while the State should never condone underage drinking, the punishment should be proportionate to the crime, and offered his belief that the legislature did not intend for kids who are cited for underage drinking to be precluded from being able to join the military. He relayed that when he was a public defender, he saw kids who got cited for underage drinking because they were at a party and who then found out later that they couldn't enlist in the military, and he characterized this as an unintended consequence of the current minor consuming law that will be fixed by HB 359. 1:16:10 PM BRIGADIER GENERAL THOMAS H. KATKUS, Commander, Army Director, Alaska Army National Guard (AK ARNG), said that the AK ARNG abides by all the [enlistment] standards of the U.S. Army for age, citizenship, education, trainability, physical fitness, and moral standards. If the courts had the ability to terminate probation for those youths who've been convicted of utilizing alcohol but who don't have any other criminal charges, it would give those youths the opportunity to join the military, which could provide them with better mentors and more options for getting out of a bad situation. Any time a person has more options available, the better his/her chances of success, he concluded. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG observed that there are no accompanying fiscal notes for HB 359. MR. WOOLIVER explained that if the ACS were to submit a fiscal note, it would be based on an anticipated increase in the number of hearings the court would have. For example, if there are 8,000 people currently on probation for minor consuming, the court might anticipate a significant number of probationers requesting a hearing. However, he added, he is not sure what percentage of those convicted might qualify for the procedure proposed by the bill, and so he will be researching that issue further to see if a fiscal note is warranted. 1:20:26 PM REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG referred to the language of proposed AS 04.16.050(l)(2) and (3), and said he is having an amendment drafted to address his concern that the person will continue to make payments for the court-ordered programs and the fines that the court imposes; for example, any unpaid amount could be entered as a judgment against the person. He asked whether the ACS would be amenable to such an amendment. MR. WOOLIVER indicated that he is not sure that [such an amendment] would be an issue for the ACS. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL expressed concern that the language of proposed AS 04.16.050(l)(4) isn't written correctly. MS. BEATLEY explained that the Department of Law (DOL) had wanted the bill to also stipulate that the person has to have substantially complied with other conditions of probation, and it appears that the drafter simply added that stipulation to the stipulation that the continuance of probation would interfere with the rehabilitation and growth of the person. She suggested that perhaps the two aspects of proposed AS 04.16.050(l)(4) could instead be separated into two different paragraphs. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL indicated that he felt something still needed to be done to clarify those stipulations. REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS said he is reading proposed AS 04.16.050(l)(4) to say that a person need not completely comply with the conditions of probation before being allowed to join the service if doing so would interfere with his/her rehabilitation. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL said he understands that concept, but opined that the language doesn't currently say that. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG posited that the language means that before the court can grant the motion [to terminate probation], the court must find that the defendant has complied with any other conditions of probation - in other words, that he/she hasn't been committing any other crimes - and must find that if probation continues and the motion is not granted, that would interfere with the defendant's rehabilitation and growth. He opined that the courts would interpret the language of proposed AS 04.16.050(l)(4) in that fashion. MR. WOOLIVER concurred with Representative Gruenberg's summation of the language, but cautioned that he can't say how judges will actually interpret the language. CHAIR RAMRAS closed public testimony and set HB 359, Version M, aside until later in the meeting. HB 359 - PROBATION AND MINOR CONSUMING 2:54:47 PM CHAIR RAMRAS announced that the committee would next return to the hearing on HOUSE BILL NO. 359, "An Act relating to probation and the offense of minor consuming or in possession or control of alcohol." [The proposed committee substitute (CS) for HB 359, Version 25-LS1377\M, Luckhaupt, 2/20/08, which had been adopted as the work draft earlier in the meeting, was before the committee.] REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG made a motion to adopt Amendment 1, labeled 25-LS1377\M.1, Luckhaupt, 2/20/08, which read: Page 1, lines 12 - 13: Delete "has either paid for the programs or has made a good faith effort to pay for the programs" Insert "has either (A) paid for the programs; or (B) made a good faith effort to pay for the programs, agreed to have the debt reduced to a civil judgment, entered into a repayment plan with the provider or the state, and agreed that the civil judgment may be enforced in the manner provided for restitution and fines in AS 12.55.051" Page 1, line 14, through page 2, line 1: Delete "has paid the fine for the offense or has made a good faith effort to pay the fine" Insert "has either (A) paid the fine; or (B) made a good faith effort to pay the fine, agreed to have the remaining fine amount reduced to a civil judgment, entered into a plan with the state, and agreed that the civil judgment may be enforced in the manner provided for restitution and fines in AS 12.55.051" CHAIR RAMRAS objected. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG explained that Amendment 1 would require that a person, in addition to making a good faith effort to pay for the programs, must also agree to have the debt reduced to a civil judgment, enter into a repayment plan, and agree that the civil judgment may be enforced in the manner provided for in statute for restitutions and fines. He offered his understanding that Mr. Wooliver from the Alaska Court System (ACS) doesn't, at this time, see a problem with Amendment 1. CHAIR RAMRAS removed his objection to Amendment 1. [Amendment 1 was treated as adopted.] 2:57:21 PM REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG made a motion to adopt Amendment 2, labeled 25-LS1377\M.2, Luckhaupt, 2/20/08, which read: Page 1, lines 1 - 2: Delete "probation and the offense of minor consuming or in possession or control of alcohol" Insert "termination of probation for certain persons convicted of minor consuming or in possession or control of alcohol or repeat minor consuming or in possession or control of alcohol" CHAIR RAMRAS objected. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG explained that Amendment 2 would tighten the title so as to limit what may be added to HB 359. CHAIR RAMRAS removed his objection. [Amendment 2 was treated as adopted.] 2:58:35 PM REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG moved to report the proposed committee substitute (CS) for HB 359, Version 25-LS1377\M, Luckhaupt, 2/20/08, as amended, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSHB 359(JUD) was reported from the House Judiciary Standing Committee.