Legislature(2011 - 2012)SENATE FINANCE 532
02/23/2012 09:00 AM FINANCE
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SENATE BILL NO. 135 "An Act relating to the rights of crime victims; relating to the duties of prosecuting attorneys; and amending Rule 45, Alaska Rules of Criminal Procedure." 9:30:06 AM SENATOR HOLLIS FRENCH, introduced SB 135. Article I, section 24 of our constitution is entitled "Rights of Crime Victims." The amendment passed by an overwhelming majority when it was placed before Alaskan voters in 1994. Included in its eight specific provisions is the promise that crime victims will have "the right to timely disposition of the case following the arrest of the accused." In the eighteen years since the amendment passed, the promise of a timely disposition of the case has often not been kept. Moreover, the breaches of that promise frequently occur in the most serious of cases. Delays in the trial of a case, known as continuances, can go on for years. SB 135 requires prosecutors and judges to consider a victim's right to a timely disposition of their case when deciding whether to allow continuances. This legislation will also ensure that victims are notified of any requests or motions that could substantially delay speedy prosecution of their case. Repeated delays prevent victims from reaching emotional, physical, and financial closure from the trauma that they suffered as a result of the crime perpetrated against them. Delays in prosecution can also affect the availability of witnesses, a victim's ability to recall important details, and it can create other impediments to a successful trial. Currently, Alaska is one of 27 states with constitutional provisions to protect a victim's rights; however, there is no statute in place to implement it. With this important piece of legislation, Alaska will join 15 other states that have enacted a statutory provision recognizing this crucial right. SB 135 will guarantee a victim's right to a timely resolution in the court system. I urge your support of this legislation. Senator Olson noted that there were some defendants in rural Alaska, and it was difficult to collect evidence. He wondered how due process was served, and felt that some of the defendants in rural Alaska were not always given a fair trial. Senator French replied that there was a current tension in the State Constitution regarding the defendant's right to a speedy trial versus the victim's right to a timely disposition. He felt that the defendant's liberty interest was often weighted greater than that of the victim. 9:34:39 AM VICTOR KESTER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AK OFFICE OF VICTIM'S RIGHTS (via teleconference), testified in support of SB 135. He explained that the Office of Victim's Rights was a legislative agency dedicated representing Alaska crime victims in Alaska courts, and advancing the interest of crime victims. He explained that SB 135 amended the Alaska statutes to strengthen notification standards regarding requests for continuances in criminal trial that would delay prosecution of a case involving a crime victim. Co-Chair Hoffman noted the four fiscal notes: FN3 (DOC), FN2 (DOA), new indeterminate fiscal note from the Department of Law, and a new fiscal impact note from the Department of Administration. Senator French noted that the bill was filed on January 6, and since that time the bill became more focused and definite. Therefore, the indeterminate fiscal note was replaced with a fiscal impact note. He felt that the new fiscal note was unwarranted. SB 135 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further consideration.