Legislature(1995 - 1996)
01/31/1995 08:05 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HSTA - 01/31/95 Number 017 HB 74 - ASSAULT BY ADULTS ON CHILDREN CHAIR JAMES recognized Representative Con Bunde, sponsor of HB 74. REPRESENTATIVE CON BUNDE reported that Shaun Jensen who was the impetus of HB 74, and who was schedule to be here, would not be available to testify due to weather conditions. His plane was grounded in Sitka. HB 74 was initiated because of public concern about the attack on this young person, Shaun Jensen, by three adults who could only be charged with a misdemeanor for their crime. Representative Bunde said the bill was intended to fill a gap if adults attack children under the age of ten. Instead of just being charged with a misdemeanor, it will ensure that they can be charged with a felony. This bill allows prosecutorial discretion, where there is an attack on a young person by people over the age of eighteen. Representative Bunde explained a discretionary provision has been included, because sometimes there are minor "fisticuffs" or misunderstandings that do not warrant a felony charge. Some individuals at age 14 look more like 17 years old, so there is some discretion required by the prosecutor. Also, there is public condemnation for people who would willingly and knowingly attack a young person. Number 115 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE read the written testimony of Julie Jensen Zarr for the record. The following testimony was read as follows: My name is Julie Jensen Zarr and I am here today to ask for your support in passing House Bill 74. The current assault law needs to be updated. On November 11, 1994 at 5:30 a.m. while delivering the Anchorage Daily News my 14 year old nephew, Shaun Jensen, as viciously assaulted by 3 adult men in South Anchorage. Shaun lost 2 permanent teeth, suffered neck trauma and was run over by his own snow machine. The law as it reads now only made misdemeanor charges against these men possible, not a message we want to send to thugs that prey on our young. In 1971, my family moved to Alaska and settled in South Anchorage, it was a great place to grow up. We felt safe and secure walking or horse back riding anywhere. My parents raised three children in Alaska we are now running our businesses and raising our children here. The Anchorage of the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s did not have drive by shootings, assaults or random senseless acts of violence, the law at that point in time fit, but in 1995 it does not. As crimes change so much, the laws must change to fit the crimes of 1995 and beyond. This event brought to light for me the need to make a difference and try to turn a negative into a positive, teaching my nephew and 2 children of empowerment instead of victimization. A change in this law will show that through hard work and believing in an idea one person can make positive impact on society. The outpouring of support from the people of Anchorage has also had a healing effect on Shaun. Again, I ask for your support in passing House Bill 74. I want to thank the committee for their attention and support. Thank you for taking the time to listen to me today. Number 137 CHAIR JAMES noted, for the record, that Representative Caren Robinson came in during the sponsor's statement. Number 140 REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN asked what the charge would be if the same thing happened to adults. He also questioned whether or not the injury to Shaun was done by fists. There was some concern on his part about if the bill was taking this far enough. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said that hitting with a fist is not assault with the deadly weapon unless there is bodily harm. So, the same damage to adults would just be a misdemeanor. Representative Bunde said there is a question about the difference between adults and juveniles, and how to determine if a person is adult. Some 16 year olds appear to be older. He said it is a frustration, and the law should be written as "doable" without clogging the system. Number 213 REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN PORTER complimented the sponsor of this legislation for not trying to dig into the criminal statutes and change standards of physical injury. These standards have been with us since 1980 and there is a lot of case law behind them. Trying to tinker in that area because of one situation would be folly; it would lead to a law that would not fit the next situation. What this bill does is present a policy-call on whether the whole category of offense should become a felony. Representative Porter said he thought the bill was the right approach that will satisfy the individual case without disrupting the statutes. He said whenever there is an alleged crime there are two considerations: (1) if a crime has been committed; and (2) then proving it. One is called "criminal law" and one is "criminal evidence." Criminal evidence, having to meet a standard of beyond a reasonable doubt, is where prosecutors and police officers run into problems. That was a problem with this case. The use of a snow machine to run over the child is something most people think should be a felony, yet it had to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the machine was intended to be used as a dangerous instrument. If that could not be proved, the charge would be a misdemeanor. Number 258 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN wondered why they made it the age of 16, not 17 or adulthood. He wondered if maybe they should make it anything below 18. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE reiterated that some 16 year olds are quite physically mature and others aren't, so 16 seems to be the cusp of the change. More 17 and 18 year olds are likely to appear adult than 16 year olds. Number 279 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN IVAN had a question about the language of the bill. He wanted a definition of "reasonably" used on page 2, line 5. It states that the "injury reasonably requires medical treatment." Number 285 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE answered that a reasonable adult will say whether an injury is serious enough to require medical attention. Number 293 CHAIR JAMES called for a motion. Number 295 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER moved that the committee pass HB 74 out of committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal notes. There being no objections, it was so ordered.