Legislature(2001 - 2002)

04/19/2002 01:42 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
        HB 243-VERIFY AGE REQD FOR DEFENSE IN SEX CRIMES                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON  said Alaska  has the dubious  distinction of                                                              
leading  the nation  in child abuse  and child  sexual abuse.  The                                                              
older males  who typically prey on  young girls sometimes  use the                                                              
defense that  they were  told by  the female that  she was  16. In                                                              
working with prosecutors  and law enforcement officials,  he wants                                                              
to  make it  clear in  Alaska law  that  that is  not an  adequate                                                              
defense. If,  in fact,  the victim  is under 16  or at  least four                                                              
years  younger  than  the  perpetrator,  the older  male  needs  a                                                              
stronger  defense than  that he  was told  the minor  was of  age.                                                              
Representative Dyson said in his  first draft of this legislation,                                                              
the older  male would  have to card  the minor  or ask his  or her                                                              
parents.  However, Representative  Berkowitz argued  that was  not                                                              
adequate. The  House Judiciary  committee substitute  requires the                                                              
perpetrator to have  reasonably believed the victim to  be of age,                                                              
which is  existing law, and to  have taken reasonable  measures to                                                              
verify the victim was of age or older.   Representative Dyson said                                                              
that in order  to get a conviction in most crimes,  the prosecutor                                                              
must demonstrate that the perpetrator knew it was a crime.                                                                      
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR noted  the words, "unless the victim  was under 13                                                              
years  of age  at  the  time of  the  alleged offense"  are  being                                                              
deleted and  said that 13  has been the  age of consent  in Alaska                                                              
for some  time, which he finds  offensive. He asked if,  "in fact,                                                              
by  removing  that  is  it  possible  for  someone  to  have  made                                                              
reasonable effort  and to have believed  and yet to  have sexually                                                              
abused someone who is under 13 years of age?"                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON replied that  Ms. Carpeneti, while testifying                                                              
in the House  Judiciary Committee, brought up a case  in which the                                                              
Alaska Court  of Appeals  ruled that one  can't have  an arbitrary                                                              
lower limit  for which the defense  can say, "I thought  they were                                                              
of age."  So by removing that  phrase, the state statutes  will be                                                              
brought  into  conformity with  that  ruling.  He asked  that  Ms.                                                              
Carpeneti address that question.                                                                                                
MS.  ANNE CARPENETI,  representing  the Criminal  Division of  the                                                              
Department of  Law, said  the Court of  Appeals held that  even if                                                              
the  victim  is  under  15, the  defendant  must  be  allowed  the                                                              
possibility of proving the affirmative  defense of mistake of age.                                                              
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR asked how old the defendant was in that case.                                                                   
MS. CARPENETI said she would find  out. She then explained the age                                                              
of consent  is 16 for consensual  sexual relations but,  under age                                                              
13, the  law had  provided that  a defendant  cannot try  to prove                                                              
mistake of age.  However, since the Court of Appeals  ruling, that                                                              
law was struck down so it is being removed in HB 243.                                                                           
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR took public testimony.                                                                                          
MS.  ANN  THOMAS,  representing herself,  said  she  is  extremely                                                              
concerned  for our  children and  society and  the pressures  that                                                              
girls  and boys  are  experiencing with  their  own sexuality  and                                                              
development. She  is glad to  see this legislation.  She expressed                                                              
concern that no legislation pass  that can provide the perpetrator                                                              
a route to escape or get an easier  sentence. She does not want to                                                              
see a perpetrator  get an excellent  defense attorney and  be able                                                              
to say  that he or she  was shown a  false ID. She  believes young                                                              
people  will search  for  ways to  become  adults  and use  clever                                                              
means,  such  as   getting  false  IDs,  and   put  themselves  in                                                              
situations  they cannot  handle.  She noted  perpetrators come  in                                                              
"all sizes, shapes, and colors."  She said she works with children                                                              
and  has found  that parents  cannot  always be  depended upon  to                                                              
protect  their  children.  Therefore   she  believes  it  is  very                                                              
important that any laws enacted do  not contain any loopholes. She                                                              
said this  issue comes  down to  a basic  common sense  principle:                                                              
what  is the  perpetrator  doing anyway  having  sex with  someone                                                              
whose age they  do not know. She asked legislators  to continue to                                                              
enact stricter laws.                                                                                                            
SENATOR   COWDERY  moved   CSHB  243(JUD)   from  committee   with                                                              
individual recommendations.                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN  TAYLOR  announced  that without  objection,  the  motion                                                              
carried.   He  then  noted   the  committee   would  discuss   the                                                              
confirmation of Dr. Sheila Selkregg.                                                                                            

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