Legislature(2011 - 2012)SENATE FINANCE 532
04/14/2012 09:00 AM FINANCE
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HOUSE BILL NO. 56 "An Act making arson in the first degree and arson in the second degree serious felonies for purposes of application of the crime of conspiracy." REPRESENTATIVE MAX GRUENBERG, stated that the legislation added 1st and 2nd degree arson to the crime of conspiracy. He explained that a conspiracy was an illegal criminal agreement to commit a crime, and one act in furtherance of the crime. He stated that conspiracy was easier to prove than the completed crime or an attempt, which required "a substantial step towards the completed crime." He related that 1st degree arson was the intentional burning or explosion of property that put a human life in danger, while arson in the 2nd degree was the intentional starting of a fire or an explosion of a building. He explained that arson was a very difficult crime to prove because often the evidence was destroyed and stated that a very small percentage of arsons were proven. He concluded that the legislation was necessary because in a number of cases, arsons were conspiracies to destroy property for insurance purposes. He furthered that in many cases, the person behind the arson was nowhere near the scene and the evidence was long gone. He shared that conspiracy worked similar to solicitation in that completion was not a prerequisite for prosecution and conviction. He stated that conspiracy was one degree below the actual crime; for example, arson in the 1st degree was a class A felony, so conspiracy to commit the crime would be a class B felony. Co-Chair Stedman discussed a zero fiscal note from the Department of Law, a zero fiscal note from the Department of Public Safety, and an indeterminate fiscal note from the Department of Corrections. 9:58:07 AM DAN JAGER, FIRE MARSHALL, CAPITAL CITY FIRE/RESCUE, spoke in support of the bill. He stated that he was a member of the Alaska Association of Fire and Arson Investigators and the Alaska Fire Chiefs Association and that both groups strongly supported the legislation. He shared his experience as fire investigator in Alaska over the last ten years. He related that arson was a difficult crime to investigate and that it had less than a 2 percent conviction rate across the country. In 2011, there were over 35 fires classified as arson or suspicious in nature in Juneau alone. The property destroyed by the fires included vehicles, structures, open fields, and school parks. He stated that in Juneau, there were three cases in which suspects were identified and were in the legal system. One of the cases in the legal system involved an adult male who set fire to an aerial ladder truck that had two firemen still inside of it. He furthered that in December, two juveniles, ages 7 and 12 lit separate fires in the local Fred Meyer and Wal-Mart stores and that just the day prior, a teenager had confessed to setting fire to an outdoor restroom several times over the past few months. He related that arson was a crime that was often planned and carried out by more than one person. He concluded that HB 56 was an important bill to fire investigators and that currently, arsonists could only be charged with that crime if it was completed or attempted. He explained that the passage of the bill would provide stronger punishment whether or not the conspirators completed the arson and concluded that the legislation could benefit open and active cases in Juneau, as well as other areas throughout the state. 10:00:41 AM HB 56 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further consideration.