Legislature(1993 - 1994)

03/21/1994 01:38 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 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                      
 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           
 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                    
 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.                  

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