Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/21/1994 01:38 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATOR TAYLOR introduced HB 28 (PENALTY FOR PROVIDING ALCOHOL TO A MINOR) sponsored by REPRESENTATIVE BILL WILLIAMS to committee and invited JEANNEANE HENRY to testify from Ketchikan. MS. HENRY testified as to her support of the bill for the past 2.5 years, and she shared a letter from the Mental Health Department in Ketchikan dealing with alcohol and drug abuse in the Ketchikan area. She read the following paragraph: "The high rate of availability and consumption level results in alcohol related problems, which at best can be described, as epidemic in proportion." Number 052 MS. HENRY promised to fax the letter for the remainder of the information, and she reviewed an incident in which her son was killed in an accident as the result of an adult furnishing a large amount of alcohol to a group of teens. She thanked SENATOR TAYLOR for hearing the bill and offered to answer questions. SENATOR TAYLOR invited the sponsor, REPRESENTATIVE BILL WILLIAMS, who explained this bill had also been sponsored by a former legislator from Ketchikan in response to the alcohol related deaths of the two youths in that community. He said the purpose of the legislation was to strengthen the penalty for providing alcohol to a person who is under the age of 21. Right now, REPRESENTATIVE WILLIAMS explained, furnishing alcohol to a minor is a misdemeanor carry a penalty of one year in year in prison and a $5 thousand fine. He said the House Judiciary provides that a person who provides alcohol to a minor in violation of AS 04.16.051 is guilty of a class C felony if, within the previous five years, the person has a prior conviction for the same offense. REPRESENTATIVE WILLIAMS also explained a class C felony carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $50 thousand fine. He described the suffering from alcohol and drug abuse all across the State of Alaska, and he urged serious support for the bill. He offered to answer questions. Number 100 SENATOR LITTLE questioned the rational behind the five year time limitation as far as a previous conviction. REPRESENTATIVE WILLIAMS explained when he first introduced the bill it was a class C felony on the first offense with five years in prison and a $50 thousand fine, but the House Judiciary Committee chose to take that up on the second offense. SENATOR LITTLE clarified if a person had given liquor to a minor and was convicted of the offense six years before, then it would still be a misdemeanor not a class C felony. REPRESENTATIVE WILLIAMS said she was correct. SENATOR LITTLE thought there should be no time limitation there, and there ensued a discussion of this provision with MARGOT KNUTH from the Criminal Division of the Department of Law. Number 143 MS. KNUTH express her respect to the sponsor and the motivation for the legislation, but she explained the Department of Law had some concerns about elevating the offense to a felony level. She asked the committee to remember the Department of Law, as well as the Department of Corrections, is faced with dwindling resources rather than more, and by making the second offense a felony matter, it will require the Department of Law to take the case to grand jury or to a preliminary hearing. She discussed the role of probation in the offense, and she explained these type of offenses frequently don't result in any period of incarceration, with more than a month in jail being unlikely. She expressed a forewarning that elevating it to a felony offense would not make people more conscientious about the crime, or deterred people from committing the crime. MS. KNUTH explained as a misdemeanor, the offense was treated seriously by the court, and she described the feeling about the offense and what the district court wanted to do about sending a message. She didn't think there would be such an impact in superior court, but would just be considered one of the least serious felonies, and she hoped the message wasn't conveyed to offenders that what they did was somehow acceptable, because as a felony offense, it wasn't capturing much attention. Again, MS. KNUTH conveyed her respect for the purposes for the legislation, but she was not sure it would achieve its goal. SENATOR DONLEY asked it there had been any multiple prosecution of persons accuse a second time for this same offense, and MS. KNUTH referred to their fiscal note to report there weren't many of these second time offenses. Number 191 SENATOR DONLEY asked if there were any examples that would show whether or not judges were giving out jail sentences for second time misdemeanor offenses. He surmised they weren't, and asked for any case specifics. MS. KNUTH said it was largely suspended jail time. SENATOR TAYLOR did think there were serious ramifications; however, if licensed premises were found to be the persons selling. MS. KNUTH said he was correct and explained there were a number of consequences, beginning with putting their license in jeopardy. She also explained some fringe liability civil consequences that have some economic bite there, and she noted that retail clerks, cocktail waiters, and waitresses usually face the loss of their job. This is in addition to the criminal liability. SENATOR TAYLOR said that CHAR and the bar owners were supportive of this kind of legislation because of the pressures under which they find themselves with phoney identifications. He thought they lose their license on a second offense, and he claimed the ABC Board has pulled some licenses. SENATOR DONLEY thought it was incredibly rare, but SENATOR TAYLOR claimed the Board was getting stricter with the bars. SENATOR DONLEY wasn't convinced. Number 243 SENATOR DONLEY asked if there was any support from the industry on the bill, since there didn't seem to be anyone in the audience from the liquor industry to testify. MS. HENRY from Ketchikan responded to the discussion claiming the misdemeanor up to recently has not been taken very seriously, and she said it was very difficult to find out who provides the liquor. She claimed the person who had provided liquor to her son had violated probation several times, had a DWI while on probation, and smuggled marijuana into jail. MS. HENRY thought if this person had been treated as a felon in the beginning, it might have sent a different message. She reviewed her complaints about the consumption of alcohol and thought it was time to send a very clear strong message. SENATOR DONLEY thought the best way to send a clear strong message would be to build enough facilities to handle 700 misdemeanors now waiting to serve time, so that when they are convicted they could go right to jail and serve their time without waiting up to a year or more to serve their present sentences. His final message was the legislature should adequately finance the Correctional institutions. SENATOR JACKO moved to pass CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 28(JUD) am (PENALTY FOR PROVIDING ALCOHOL TO A MINOR) from committee with individual recommendations. Without objections, so ordered.