Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/28/1996 01:30 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 289 MISC. LAWS RELATING TO RUNAWAY MINORS CHAIRMAN ROBIN TAYLOR called the Judiciary Committee meeting to order at 1:35 p.m. All committee members were present except Senator Ellis. The first matter of business was SB 289. SENATOR TAYLOR informed committee members an amendment (amendment modifies Section 1(4) on page 2, line 2, by removing the words "just cause" and inserting the words "the knowledge or permission of the parent, guardian, or custodian," and changes lines 5 through 17 to read: ; it is an affirmative defense to a prosecution under this paragraph that, at the time of the alleged offense, the defendant (A) reasonably believed that the child was in danger of physical injury or in need of temporary shelter; and (B) within eight hours after taking the actions comprising the alleged offense, notified a peace officer, a law enforcement agency, or the Department of Health and Social Services of the name of the child and the child's location. SENATOR TAYLOR stated the original bill required a 12 hour notification requirement. He moved adoption of amendment #1, as modified, changing the eight hour time limit to 12 hours. There being no objection, the motion carried. SENATOR ADAMS noted the committee debated the removal of the "just cause" term on page 1, line 15, at its previous meeting as well as changing the word "suspect" to "believe." He asked for clarification of any action taken on those changes. SENATOR TAYLOR explained the committee removed the terms "without just cause" and "within 12 hours" in a prior amendment. ANNE CARPENETI, representing the Department of Law, advised retaining the phrase "without just cause" on page 1, lines 14 and 15, because without it a parent could be acting illegally for keeping a child home sick for two consecutive days, or for taking the child out of school for a family vacation. SENATOR TAYLOR stated that if one follows through to Section 1(a)(4)(A), it is considered an affirmative defense if the parent reasonably believed the child's health or welfare was in imminent danger. MS. CARPENETI explained the word "or" at the end of line 15, page 1, makes paragraphs (1) through (4) exclusive of each other. SENATOR TAYLOR agreed but questioned whether this language is problematic for truancy officers because the term "just cause" can be used to justify differing beliefs. MS. CARPENETI felt removal of that term would cause more problems than it would solve. SENATOR TAYLOR asked Senator Frank his opinion. SENATOR FRANK replied he was under the impression that truancy laws are not well enforced, but felt the language could be drafted to address truancy problems yet allow parents to remove children from schools for a vacation. SENATOR MILLER commented he understood Senator Frank's desire to address truancy problems, but expressed concern that a school district that might consider homeschooled children truant. SENATOR TAYLOR believed amendment #1, adopted at a previous meeting, removed the "just cause" term from page 1, lines 14 and 15. SENATOR ADAMS moved reinsertion of the term "without just cause" on page 1, lines 14 and 15. There being no objection, the motion carried. SENATOR TAYLOR discussed changing the word "suspect" to "believe" on page 2, line 29 and on page 3, line 3. MS. CARPENETI noted the Department of Law maintains the better standard to require is "suspect" because reasonable cause to believe is close to the, if not the same, standard of evidence required to justify an arrest. Number 187 SENATOR TAYLOR moved to delete the word "suspect" on page 2, line 29, and page 3, line 3, and to insert the word "believe." SENATOR ADAMS objected to the motion. SENATOR FRANK questioned whether the court would hold a police officer to the same standard as it would hold a prosecutor. The intent of the language is to expect the police officer to sincerely believe a problem in the home exists, not that a problem might exist. SENATOR ADAMS felt the word "suspect" would better address that situation, because if the officer was required to believe a problem exists, he/she would need to find evidence. SENATOR TAYLOR stated the suspect standard is existing law, and has created a tremendous amount of parental frustration because police officers tend to believe the child. He felt the officer should be required to have more than a slight suspicion when deciding whether to return a child to the home. He expressed concern that in the state's zeal to protect the child, it is destroying the family system. He discussed problems created for families by manipulative adolescents. MS. CARPENETI pointed out an officer would need more than a scintilla of evidence to meet the current reason to suspect standard; the suspicion must be based on reason. SENATOR TAYLOR discussed a case in which a 13 year old girl flew to California with her 20 year old boyfriend but the police would not intervene at the Juneau airport because she stated her father had hit her which is considered physical punishment. SENATOR ADAMS called for the question on the motion, as this issue will be debated on the Senate floor, and then voiced his objection to adoption of the amendment. The motion carried with Senators Taylor, Green, and Miller voting "yea," and Senator Adams voting "nay." SENATOR MILLER moved SB 289 as amended out of committee with individual recommendations. The motion carried with Senators Taylor, Green and Miller voting "yea," and Senator Adams voting "nay."