Legislature(2001 - 2002)
05/02/2001 05:17 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 210-STAT. OF LIMITATIONS:SEXUAL ASSAULT/ABUSE REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MEYER, bill sponsor, testified that HB 210 removes the statute of limitations on felony sexual assault involving penetration. Currently, only sexual abuse of a minor and murder have no statute of limitations and HB 210 adds sexual assault to the list of extreme crimes. New technology and DNA testing make it possible to use evidence many years after the crime has been committed and state law should protect the victim's right to justice. The amendment made on the House floor includes civil penalties as well. The legislation will become effective on the date it becomes law and as long as the 10 year limitation has not expired by the time HB 210 becomes law, the crime has no limitations for when it can be prosecuted. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR read from page 1, line 9 through page 2, line 6 and asked whether there was already a 10 year statute of limitations in effect. REPRESENTATIVE MEYER said there was. He then added that the wording was confusing to him but the drafter was present to answer questions. The intent of the bill centers on page 1, line 13, which states that prosecution of class A, or class B felony sexual assault or violation of AS 11.41.425(a)(2) or (3) may commence at any time. Although there are other felony sexual assaults, they deal with contact while this deals with penetration. He announced he would have no objection if the committee wanted to drop the amendment that was added on the House floor which drops the statute of limitations for civil penalties. Because his focus was on criminal penalties, he wasn't committed one way or the other to the statute of limitations being extended to include civil penalties as well. He thought the drafter might better explain the bill arrangement if there were questions. SENATOR COWDERY asked whether Representative Meyer had an amendment ready. REPRESENTATIVE MEYER responded that section 1 could be deleted and the sections renumbered. The reasoning behind the amendment was that if it was possible to prove that a suspect was criminally liable for a 20 year old crime then why shouldn't the victim be able to bring civil charges as well. Number 2100 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR asked the drafter to explain the confusion over 10 years. MR. GERALD LUCKHAUPT, an attorney with Legislative Legal & Research Services, Legislative Affairs Agency explained that Section 2(a) says there is no criminal statute of limitations for the listed offences. Subsection (b) maintains the current 10 year statute of limitations for class C felony sexual assault that involves contact and sexual abuse of a minor. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR asked why page 2, line 3 was included. MR LUCKHAUPT replied that unless there is another applicable statute that specifies a different statute of limitations or if it is a crime listed in (a) then these are the statutes of limitations that generally apply in Alaska. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR said, then "it's part of the exception. Except as otherwise provided by law or except as in section (a)." MR LUCKHAUPT agreed. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR asked how this affects outstanding cases. For instance, if a case was 12 to 15 years old before the police got proof, current state law would not allow prosecution. Would passage of HB 210 allow prosecution of that case? MR. LUCKHAUPT responded that if the statute of limitations on an outstanding offense has not yet run, the statute of limitations could be extended. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR asked about a situation in which no indictment or complaint was brought. Wouldn't it be a waste of time to go forward if there is a statute of limitations that would prevent this? "Does the look back caused by this legislation go beyond the previous 10 years?" For instance, consider that a crime was committed 15 to 20 years ago and the investigation occurred 10 or more years after the crime was committed and there was a 10 year statute of limitations in effect. Would the passage of this legislation allow the prosecutor to prosecute the perpetrator? MR. LUCKHAUPT replied that once the statute of limitations on an offense has run, that offense may not be resurrected for criminal prosecution. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR said he understood that this legislation would only affect offenses that have occurred ten years prior to the effective date of the act. MR. LUCKHAUPT said that is basically correct but there is a provision that deals with an offense committed against a minor or an individual who was not aware that the offense had occurred so there could be instances in which the look back would extend farther that ten years. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR thanked Mr. Luckhaupt for the explanation and asked whether there were additional witnesses who wanted to testify. MR. BLAIR McCUNE, Deputy Director, Alaska Public Defender Agency, testified that the primary concern addressed by the bill is the physical evidence left from a sexual assault in which there is no suspect that can be DNA tested. If the DNA patterns are kept in a data bank, a suspect may be identified for a crime that was committed more that ten years ago. Side B Although he can't argue against DNA patterning being used on that category of case, he is concerned about sexual assaults in which there is some kind of recovered memory issue and there is no DNA evidence. A prosecution that is undertaken 10 or 15 years after the fact would put the defense at a decided disadvantage. The reason for statutes of limitation is to provide some protection against older cases in which there is an alibi but it can no longer be established. With this in mind, he would like to explore the possibility of restricting the extended look back to DNA cases or those involving scientific evidence. SENATOR THERRIAULT remarked that the occurrence of a resurrected memory case is remote and both the defense and the prosecution could be at a disadvantage in terms of corroborating witnesses or alibis. MR. McCUNE agreed that the occurrence of such cases is remote but, in such instances, he felt the defense would be at a greater disadvantage than the prosecution by the passage of time. Number 2281 MS TRISHA GENTLE, Executive Director, Council on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, testified in support of the bill. It's important to recognize that this allows victims the time to heal emotionally and physically before coming forward to prosecute. She also spoke in favor of the amendment to include civil penalties. Although she thought there would be few instances in which a victim chose that avenue but it would provide a victim another opportunity to feel whole once again. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR called for questions and there were none. He asked for the pleasure of the committee. SENATOR COWDERY moved CSHB 210(JUD) forward with individual recommendations. There being no objection, CSHB (210) and attached fiscal note moved from committee with individual recommendations.