Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/17/1995 10:20 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
  SENATE BILL NO.  6                                                           
       An  Act relating to registration of a motor vehicle and                 
       suspension of a driver's license  for failure to appear                 
       in court or failure to pay a fine.                                      
  Co-chairman  Halford directed  that SB 6  be brought  on for                 
  discussion and  further directed attention to a draft CSSB 6                 
  (9-LS0091\C, Ford, 3/16/95).  Senator Robin Taylor, sponsor,                 
  came before committee.  He explained that the proposed draft                 
  modifies the bill to cover concerns raised when the bill was                 
  applied to Anchorage  where there have been problems  in the                 
  manner in which  parking violations  are enforced.   Senator                 
  Taylor said  he had  not initially  intended to  address the                 
  parking issue.                                                               
  Senator Randy Phillips referenced correspondence from  Larry                 
  Wood expressing concern  regarding the  bill.  JOE  AMBROSE,                 
  aide to Senator Taylor,  advised of a conversation  with Mr.                 
  Wood, indicating that  Mr. Wood is  of the opinion that  the                 
  bill  will increase rather  than decrease the  burden on the                 
  court system.  The view of the sponsor is that the bill will                 
  enable  the  courts  to  move faster  because  it  will  not                 
  necessarily have to issue a warrant  and send out a trooper.                 
  The operator's license  will simply  be suspended, and  when                 
  the operator attempts to  renew the license, he or  she will                 
  have to pay the fine.                                                        
  Mr. Ambrose advised that there  are 25,000 outstanding fines                 
  each  year.  That  does not appear  to be a  problem for Mr.                 
  Wood.  There is a philosophical  difference as to whether or                 
  not people should be required to pay fines.                                  
  Senator Phillips next inquired  regarding a suggestion  that                 
  unpaid court fines be  sent to a private collection  agency.                 
  Senator Taylor explained  that there would be  no benefit in                 
  such an arrangement.   A collection agency is  not necessary                 
  if failure to  pay the fine is tied to the ability to obtain                 
  a  driver's license.   Enforcement of the  fine is automatic                 
  when individuals with outstanding fines apply for or attempt                 
  to renew the license.                                                        
  Co-chairman   Frank   asked   if   the  sponsor   considered                 
  withholding individual  permanent fund  dividends until  the                 
  fine is paid.   Senator Taylor  said that many options  were                 
  considered for  enforcement of  criminal  fines in  general.                 
  The Co-chairman suggested that deterrent within the proposed                 
  bill should focus on the dividend.                                           
  Co-chairman Halford  questioned the  lack of  a fiscal  note                 
  from the  Dept.  of Corrections.    He noted  a  substantial                 
  correctional  system  impact  from the  second  tier  of DWI                 
  offenses.  He  asked if the  proposed bill would impose  the                 
  same  penalty  for  DWLS  (driving with  license  suspended)                 
  following failure to pay a fine as current statutes apply to                 
  DWLS following a DWI conviction.                                             
  In  response  to  a question  from  Senator  Rieger, Senator                 
  Taylor advised that  DWLS is a misdemeanor.   Senator Rieger                 
  then asked  if  it could  be incorporated  within day  fines                 
  legislation and avoid impact on corrections.  Senator Taylor                 
  responded affirmatively.   Co-chairman  Halford voiced  need                 
  for  a  separation  between  DWLS  for DWI  offenses  versus                 
  license suspensions for fine offenses.                                       
  JUANITA HENSLEY, Chief of Driver Services, Division of Motor                 
  Vehicles,   Dept.   of   Public  Safety,   next   spoke  via                 
  teleconference from Anchorage.  She explained that the first                 
  offense  of  driving  with a  suspended  or  revoked license                 
  carries a mandatory 10 days with 10 days suspended.  In lieu                 
  of serving 10  days, an individual  may perform 80 hours  of                 
  community work service.                                                      
  In response to  a question  from Co-chairman Frank,  Senator                 
  Taylor  said  that the  bill would  apply  to all  fines for                 
  moving traffic  violations.   Most would  amount to $150  or                 
  $200.  Co-chairman Frank voiced  his belief that individuals                 
  would  be highly motivated  to pay  their fines  rather than                 
  risk loss of the $1,000 dividend.  Senator Taylor noted that                 
  the dividend is  only paid once a year.   That allows eleven                 
  months  in  which to  "dodge  fines  and leave  town."   Co-                 
  chairman Frank  advised  that license  renewal occurs  every                 
  five  years.    The  backlog  in  court  fines  totals  many                 
  millions.   Senator Taylor explained  that the  individual's                 
  license would be  suspended upon  failure to pay  a fine  or                 
  failure to appear  in court.   Co-chairman Frank  questioned                 
  need  to incur costs  relating to  the court  system, public                 
  defender,  and prosecutor,  when  denial  of  the  permanent                 
  dividend would serve as  a much greater deterrent.   Senator                 
  Taylor noted  need to  determine whether  the individual  is                 
  actually guilty as charged.  No  such decision has been made                 
  when an individual has merely failed to appear.  Co-chairman                 
  Frank  suggested that  the individual become  ineligible for                 
  the dividend for failure to appear in court.                                 
  Senator Taylor attested to his  belief that deterrence would                 
  be enhanced as knowledge of the automatic suspension becomes                 
  known.  Experience in the state of Washington shows that 50%                 
  of those whose  licenses are suspended pay  within the first                 
  week.    Co-chairman  Frank  questioned  the impact  of  the                 
  remaining 50% on the correctional system.                                    
  Discussion  followed  regarding civil  rather  than criminal                 
  enforcement of traffic violations.  Co-chairman Frank voiced                 
  his belief that the criminal justice system  should focus on                 
  more serious crime.                                                          
  Co-chairman  Halford  voiced   his  understanding  that  the                 
  penalty of license  suspension for failure  to respond to  a                 
  moving citation is legitimate and done in many other states.                 
  He expressed concern, however, over the possibility that the                 
  DWLS penalty for DWI would be applied to DWLS for failure to                 
  pay a traffic  fine.  Senator Taylor noted  that a number of                 
  suspensions  result  from accumulation  of  points by  young                 
  people.  The legislature long ago  decided "to be very harsh                 
  on people  driving with suspended licenses in the hopes that                 
  they would force people to come back into  the system."  Co-                 
  chairman Halford noted that the penalty is harsh because the                 
  practices   of  building   up   points  and   driving  while                 
  intoxicated are dangers to  other people.  Failure to  pay a                 
  fine for a burned  out tail light is a cost  and aggravation                 
  but not an immediate danger to other people.                                 
  Co-chairman Frank voiced need for  information on the number                 
  of people in  jail for  "this type of  offense."  He  voiced                 
  reluctance to add to the prison population.                                  
  Discussion  followed  between  Senator  Taylor  and  Senator                 
  Rieger  concerning  the  prevalence  of  differing types  of                 
  moving and  equipment violation citations issued  in various                 
  districts  of the  state.   Juanita  Hensley  said that  the                 
  proposed   bill  speaks   strictly  to   moving  violations.                 
  Equipment  violations  are a  correctable  offense.   If the                 
  defect is  repaired and the repaired vehicle is presented to                 
  the law  enforcement agency  within 10  days, the  ticket is                 
  Senator  Taylor  suggested  that  the  issue  of  denial  of                 
  permanent  fund dividends  to  misdemeanants  be limited  to                 
  Senator Frank's legislation (SB 135).                                        
  Co-chairman  Frank  agreed  that SB  6  would  motivate more                 
  people to pay  their fines.   It will  also result in  "more                 
  people doing more jail time."  Senator Taylor concurred.  He                 
  reiterated opportunity  to utilize day  fines and  suggested                 
  that most people  would "want  to find some  other way  than                 
  sitting in jail for 10 days . . . ."                                         
  Discussion   followed   regarding  problems   stemming  from                 
  mandatory sentencing.                                                        
  Further  discussion  followed  regarding   the  motivational                 
  capability of the permanent fund dividend.                                   
  Senator  Donley voiced his belief that  those who lose their                 
  license have it suspended or revoked  for good reason.  When                 
  they  continue to  drive, there  is need  for  a substantial                 
  penalty.    Co-chairman  Frank  said  he  concurred  in  the                 
  instance of DWI charges.  He again questioned whether people                 
  should  be  incarcerated for  failure  to  pay a  fine.   He                 
  further  questioned  the  advisability  of  undertaking   an                 
  expensive  process (court,  public defender,  and prosecutor                 
  time)  to  obtain  a $150  fine,  while  on  the other  hand                 
  providing  the  individual a  $1,000  dividend later  in the                 
  year.    Senator Taylor  explained  that judges  are already                 
  dealing with  the paper  work associated  with the  proposed                 
  Co-chairman Halford voiced need for  fiscal note information                 
  from the Dept. of  Corrections.  He then suggested  that Co-                 
  chairman Frank  and Senator Taylor  continue to work  on the                 
  The meeting was adjourned at approximately 10:50 a.m.                        

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