Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/12/2003 01:31 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
         HB  12-HARASSMENT BY ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION                                                                      
                                                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  KEVIN  MEYER  introduced  HB 12  saying  it  lists                                                              
electronic  communication  as a  method  of harassment.    Current                                                              
statutes do not  allow for electronic communication  as a means of                                                              
harassment, which  has been a  problem for Alaska  law enforcement                                                              
agencies.   With the  low cost  and ease  of access to  computers,                                                              
more  and more  harassment  is being  done  via  the computer  and                                                              
electronic  communication.   An  individual who  may  not want  to                                                              
confront a  person personally  or on the  telephone may  feel very                                                              
comfortable doing it  via email.  In fact some people  are so good                                                              
on  computers they  can program  their  computer to  automatically                                                              
send harassing  messages at  regular intervals  24 hours a  day, 7                                                              
days a week.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Online  harassment  or  harassment  in  general really  is  not  a                                                              
serious crime  but it often  is a prelude  to more  serious crimes                                                              
so the sooner the  perpetrator can be caught the better.   It is a                                                              
relatively new problem  for Alaska's law enforcement  agencies yet                                                              
it  is growing  as  more  people get  access  to computers.    Law                                                              
enforcement  has been catching  people who  are harassing  via the                                                              
Internet, but there  is no statute to prosecute  the perpetrators.                                                              
Law enforcement  personnel approached  him with their  frustration                                                              
last summer and that is why the bill is before the committee.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
The  bill evolved  relatively  quickly through  the  House with  a                                                              
couple of amendments.   House Judiciary felt harassment  by use of                                                              
electronic communication  was too  difficult to define  in statute                                                              
so they  added a letter of  intent as to  what it is and  kept the                                                              
definition  fairly  broad  so  it  would  be  able  to  evolve  as                                                              
electronic communication evolves.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
The  second amendment  was  made  on the  floor  of  the House  of                                                              
Representatives by  the Minority Leader.  That  amendment adds the                                                              
words "or sexual  contact" on page 1, line 14.   There was quite a                                                              
bit of debate  on the issue.   Representative Meyer felt  that, on                                                              
page  1,  line  12  and  13,  that  says  "an  obscene  electronic                                                              
communication" would  cover "sexual contact."   There are  quite a                                                              
few  lawyers  in  the  House  and   they  each  pulled  out  their                                                              
different  definition  of  obscene.   They  decided  it  would  be                                                              
covered  if  the  words  "sexual  contact"  were  included.    The                                                              
addition does  not change the  bill and  if anything it  makes the                                                              
bill stronger so the amendment was accepted.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR OGAN  moved CSHB 12(JUD)  am \Q.A  as the bill  before the                                                              
committee.  There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT  said he was a little leery  of amendments made                                                              
on  the floor.   He  asked if  Representative  Meyer received  any                                                              
kind of memo  from the drafters  cautioning him on the  use of the                                                              
wording.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MEYER  conferred with  his staff and  reported they                                                              
were in  contact with the  drafter and  there was no  problem with                                                              
the amendment.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR   OGAN   thought   the   issue   of   obscene   electronic                                                              
communication  is  one with  which  all  parents grapple.  He  has                                                              
always been concerned  about unsolicited obscene  material because                                                              
everybody  who has  been  on a  computer  has unwittingly  visited                                                              
some obscene site.   He is concerned this is a  snare that is used                                                              
by pornographers  to snare children into antisocial  behavior that                                                              
is destructive  to  their moral  fiber.   He asked  if this  was a                                                              
vehicle by which they might be able to address that problem.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  MEYER informed  the committee  HB 82 is  currently                                                              
scheduled  with  the  Labor  and   Commerce  Committee  and  deals                                                              
specifically  with unsolicited  sexual explicit  material.   It is                                                              
going  to  make  the material  illegal  unless  the  subject  line                                                              
contains  adult material.   That  way  children will  know not  to                                                              
open the  email or better  yet the computer  can be set  to filter                                                              
out the word adult  so the children will not receive  that type of                                                              
material.    HB 12  deals  strictly  with harassment  and  putting                                                              
electronic  communication as  a  means of  harassment in  statute.                                                              
When people  are sending out emails  saying, "I want to  kill you"                                                              
or  threatening   things  like   that,  Alaskan  law   enforcement                                                              
agencies can do something about it.  Right now they cannot.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SERGEANT  CURT HARRIS,  Alaska  State Troopers,  said  he did  not                                                              
have  any specific  testimony, but  was  available for  questions.                                                              
He  said  the   Alaska  State  Troopers  are  supportive   of  the                                                              
legislation.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR OGAN asked  if the Alaska State Troopers  have people with                                                              
the training to  specialize in electronic crimes  with the ability                                                              
to detect these crimes and trace the origins.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
SERGEANT HARRIS answered  yes.  The Alaska State  Troopers address                                                              
electronic crimes  through their  white-collar crime section.   It                                                              
is a portion  of the Criminal  Investigation Bureau.   He obtained                                                              
that training  and has  experience in  that area.   There  are two                                                              
other investigators in  the unit that are coming up  to speed with                                                              
that capability.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT  moved CSHB  12(JUD)  am from  committee  with                                                              
individual  recommendations   and  attached  zero   fiscal  notes.                                                              
There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  ELLIS noted  he  was also  a  sponsor  of legislation  on                                                              
unsolicited  spam email  of various  kinds.   Spam email clogs  up                                                              
small businesses  and private parties  to the tune of  billions of                                                              
dollars a year.   It may be something the committee  also wants to                                                              
consider.                                                                                                                       

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