Legislature(1993 - 1994)
04/14/1993 01:45 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATOR TAYLOR introduced CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 69 (FIN) (SEX OFFENDER REGISTRATION) sponsored by REPRESENTATIVE RAMONA BARNES and represented to the committee by DOUG WOOLIVER, Staff Attorney. Number 505 SENATOR TAYLOR invited MR. WOOLIVER to present the bill for HOUSE SPEAKER RAMONA BARNES. MR. WOOLIVER reviewed the sectional analysis for CSHB 69 (FIN): "An Act relating to registration of and information about sex offenders and amending Alaska Rules of Criminal Procedure 11(c) and 32(b); and providing for an effective date." MR. WOOLIVER explained the bill covered crimes of sexual assault in the first, second, and third degree; sexual abuse of a minor in the first, second, and third degree; promoting prostitution in the first degree; and incest and unlawful exploitation of a minor. He also explained the bill covered crimes not only committed in Alaska but those in other jurisdictions when those persons moved to Alaska. MR. WOOLIVER said a sex offender in Alaska would have seven days in which to register, and those who come to Alaska would have fourteen days in which to register. He explained the provisions of the bill would be retroactive to January 1, 1984. Anyone convicted of two or more sex offenses would be required to register for life, and anyone with one sex offense would be required to register for fifteen years. These periods would commence after their unconditional discharge. In Subsection (b)(1), MR. WOOLIVER listed the information to be contained in the registration, including name, address, place of employment, date of birth, each conviction for a sex offense for which the duty to register has not terminated, date, place and court of sex offense conviction, all aliases used and driver's license number. All of this information would be available to the public except for the offenders' finger prints, drivers license, and aliases. MR. WOOLIVER explained this bill was needed since Alaska leads the nation in child sexual abuse and is second in the nation in sexual assaults, and he cited studies from California and other places which accused sex offenders of having the highest recidivism rate. MR. WOOLIVER quoted devastating statistics from various sources on the differences in sex offenders, the large number of victims, as well as investigations which concluded that rapists and child sexual abusers were more likely to be arrested for new sex crimes if they completed psychological treatment. MR. WOOLIVER claimed therapy was deemed to be ineffective, and he quoted a study from Canada that determined that sex offenders were worse after treatment. He noted the high number of children abused by sex offenders who grew up to be sex offenders themselves. Number 545 MR. WOOLIVER continued his presentation with an assessment of the pervasive aspects of the present unregistered sex offender problem in Alaska. He said there was a lack of "handy" information on child sex offenders, and the offenders were found to be in areas where they had ready access to children. MR. WOOLIVER concluded his review of HB 69 by specifying the uses for the registration of sex offenders, and he referred to a California study which showed overwhelming support from law enforcement agencies as a beneficial system for aiding their jobs. He said there were currently eighteen states with sex offender registration and a couple more have registration for drug offenses as well. He reported HB 69 was similar to registration legislation in the other states. Number 577 SENATOR LITTLE questioned the constitutionally of the bill since it would increase the sentence of those persons convicted of a sex offense. MR. WOOLIVER said this was a fair assessment and had been brought up in other courts, but it has been found the law was not punitive, but was regulatory - in most of the other cases. He said this did not violate the ex facto provision of laws, and the courts in Alaska ...... TAPE 93-43, SIDE B Number 001 .... have addressed similar cases in the past as having a valid regulatory purpose for the law. SENATOR LITTLE suggested there might be punitive effects. MR. WOOLIVER said she was correct, and he explained the actions of the court in this respect. He quoted a constitutional case settled by the supreme court in 1990 which has limitations to the impact on the convicted person. In a series of questions, SENATOR JACKO asked about repeat offenders? MR. WOOLIVER answered there was a difference in registration requirements. SENATOR JACKO asked if the public disclosure provisions of the legislation were in excess of those in other states. MR WOOLIVER'S answer included a review of disclosure provisions from other states which have withstood challenge. The right to privacy was also discussed. SENATOR TAYLOR asked MR. WOOLIVER about restrictions in the dissemination of registration information. SENATOR TAYLOR followed up with a series of questions to determine the limits on the dissemination in other states. He also asked for the specific proposed regulation in the bill to determine who has access to the information. MR. WOOLIVER directed the committee to page 4, line 7, (b) to explain the extent of disclosure in HB 69. SENATOR TAYLOR thanked MR. WOOLIVER and invited LIZ DODD, representing the Alaska Chapter of the Civil Liberties Union, to testify. MS. DODD described the dissemination of information in the State of Washington from the registry to police offices, who then decide whether or not to furnish the information. She also explained the process of having a hearing to remove the offender's name from the registry if that person can prove they have been rehabilitated. Number 071 MS. DODD also described the procedures for access to the registries in other states, but she explained, under HB 69, any business person could access the registry to find out the information. MS. DODD thought this was a problem and would not protect any children. In her prepared statement, MS. DODD said the ACLU supported the intended purpose of protecting the public from the chronic sex offenders, but she thought the bill conflicted with the constitution. She listed the concerns of the ACLU beginning with "drowning the privacy rights of persons who have served their prescribed sentence for the crime." She objected to the wide-open public disclosure provision as being excessive retribution rather than public protection. MS. DODD thought this would be struck down by the courts and described it in terms of ex facto restrictions. MS. DODD further used the constitution to protest lumping all sex offenders together for purposes of registration and for assuming that all sex offenders are chronic and predatory. She said this false assumption leads to the conclusion that no offender should be exempted from registration, even those considered treatable. MS. DODD said there would be no incentive for offenders to seek treatment, since they would be considered as an untreatable offender despite any steps they take to correct their behavior. She described how this might lead to an increase in offenses, especially among the borderline offenders. She contrasted this to the State of Washington where the offender can petition the court to waive registration requirements. With this legislation, she said the first time offender would be treated as a repeat offender regardless of individual circumstances. Number 108 MS. DODD explained the difference in sex offenses in Alaska as being alcohol related, where rehabilitation can diminish the problem. She further explained this wouldn't be taken into consideration in the legislation regardless of treatment or circumstances. She claimed the registration would disproportionally impact rural Alaskans most affected by alcoholism. MS. DODD illustrated why she thought this would be a grievous, race-biased error, and she accused HB 69 of taking the "drift-net" approach. MS. DODD concluded with remarks on cruel and unusual punishment, where perpetrators could be sentenced to extended periods, or a life time, of social ostracism and on-going depravation of their basic rights as protected by the U. S. Constitution. She described incidents of public ridicule and vigilantism used in other states. Number 133 MS. DODD reviewed the ACLU'S position on the provisions in the legislation, HB 69, as being in conflict with the rights guaranteed by the U. S. Constitution and the Alaska State Constitution. She said the legislation was comparable to the days of the stock and pillory in the public square - and would do little to stop sex offenses. She expressed concern that it would increase sex offenses and limit the treatment of offenders. MS. DODD asked the committee to hold the bill for further evaluation of statistics in relation to similar legislation passed in other states. SENATOR TAYLOR called on PAUL NELSON from Haines. MR. NELSON began his testimony by questioning MR. WOOLIVER on his statistic that Alaska had six times the national rate for sex offenses and asked if that was accusations or convictions. MR. WOOLIVER thought they were convictions, but he wasn't completely sure. SENATOR TAYLOR said he would find out the correct statistics and report back to the committee. MR. NELSON quoted from the Constitution of the United States, Section 9, that the retroactivity clause was in violation of the constitution. He thought registration of sex offenders might be a good idea but suggested a preference for the parole and probation system. MR. NELSON said the State of Alaska did not need more laws in violation of the constitution and asked that the bill not be passed from committee. SENATOR DONLEY asked how it violated the constitution? MR. NELSON quoted the constitution as saying that no law may be passed which increases the punishment for a criminal who has already been sentenced. He said HB 69 would require people previously convicted to increase their sentence by registering. Number 175 SENATOR DONLEY said it was within the police power of the state to provide public protection, and he claimed this was not a punishment for sex offenders. It was meant for public protection purposes. MR. NELSON disagreed and reiterated his arguments. SENATOR TAYLOR suggested that MR. NELSON'S comments should be directed to MS. DODD. SENATOR DONLEY asked MR. NELSON for some case law on the subject, and MR. NELSON again referred to the constitution. MS. DODD gave an explanation from the documents she has read and concluded it was a process of public protection being weighed against the punitive nature arising from retroactive restrictions. SENATOR TAYLOR asked MS. DODD for a written report on her information for the committee. Number 209 SENATOR TAYLOR next invited MARCIA MCKENZIE, Program Director for the Council on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault for the Department of Public Safety, to testify. MS. MCKENZIE presented testimony from the council in support of HB 69, because the council feels it would deter, if not prevent, future abuses of women and children. She quoted statistics from 1991 that the rate of sexual abuse in Alaska was more than double the nation average. She said in 1992 the rate of forcible rape rose 28% from the previous year. MS. MCKENZIE explained that many sex offenders were released from prison without having completed sex offender treatment, which makes for a high likelihood of recidivism. In addition to the victimization, the cost of the recidivism is high. She thought anything that could deter this would be beneficial. MS. MCKENZIE asked some questions about the registration such as who would be checking on the offender. She explained it would be helpful to the shelter programs to do background checks on potential employees. For this reason, she said the council was supportive of the registration concept. SENATOR LITTLE offered a conceptual amendment to allow the information only released to the law enforcement entities, with such information released to the general public at the discretion of these entities. SENATOR TAYLOR asked the committee staff to draw up a draft of SENATOR LITTLE'S conceptual amendment for consideration by the committee. SENATOR LITTLE offered an additional conceptual amendment, similar to a provision in the Washington State law, to offer the offender the right to petition the court to waive the registration requirement. SENATOR TAYLOR asked ARTHUR SNOWDEN, Administrative Director for the Judicial Branch, if he wanted to testify. MR. SNOWDEN, in reference to the first conceptual amendment by SENATOR LITTLE, said the didn't want the court to begin sealing public documents. Number 268 Next to speak was MARGO KNUTH, Asst. Attorney General, Criminal Division, for the Department of Law, who explained that the first conceptual amendment by SENATOR LITTLE might cause some tort problems for the state. She said it would put the law enforcement agencies in the position of deciding the guidelines used to make the decision as to whether disclosure is appropriate. SENATOR JACKO asked for additional testimony from other states in which registration of sex offenders was done. SENATOR TAYLOR reported from MR. WOOLIVER that other states had similar laws using a screening device. He asked the staff aide to check with MS. KNUTH in writing the amendments. MR. WOOLIVER said the waiver provision was discussed in House Committees, and there were objections from those who work with victims of sexual assault. He said those in other states who could afford the lawyers to get the waiver, were sometimes the worst offenders. He said there had been a concern there would be a disproportionate impact on the native population. SENATOR JACKO asked MR. WOOLIVER if the registration would impact the large segment of the native population that commit suicide. MR. WOOLIVER didn't know of any studies, but did know there was a high rate of suicide among the victims of sexual abuse. He quoted testimony from other committees that there wasn't a higher percentage of sex offenders, but he offered to do some research. SENATOR JACKO asked whether there could be the option of electrocution rather than being registered as an offender. SENATOR TAYLOR said there being no more questions, testimony on HB 69 would be tabled for another meeting.