Legislature(2007 - 2008)BELTZ 211
04/23/2007 01:30 PM JUDICIARY
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SB 150-CRIMES AT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SHELTERS CHAIR FRENCH announced the consideration of SB 150. 1:33:04 PM DONNIE FLEAGLE, Legislative Intern to Senator Davis, relayed that SB 150 is in response to an event at the Juneau AWARE Center. She stated the following: Domestic violence is a serious, significant, preventable public health challenge for Alaska. Alaska has the distinction of being in the top five states for per capita domestic violence rates. And Alaska's women are being killed by their partners at the rate of 1.5 times the national average. In 2005 Alaska shelters provided services to 8,793 clients. This bill will not solve this social ill. However, it will bring attention to protecting victims of domestic violence and will serve to draw the general public's attention to the need for social change and the responsibility we all have as citizens to protect the most vulnerable of populations. Over time this learned behavior will change when it is generally known that such behavior can result in additional time spent incarcerated. Anchorage has seen that over time rape is committed without the use of a weapon because it is known that should a weapon be used, the stakes go up considerably. This legislation will give courts the ability to impose additional time above and beyond the presumptive sentence for felonies committed on the premises of a shelter or a facility providing services to victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. Passage of SB 150 provides a tool that can be used to send a message that crimes committed on the premises of a shelter or a facility providing services to victims of domestic violence or sexual assault are deserving of the maximum allowable punishment. And that the safety that is expected in such an environment will be enforced and respected. The language in this bill was left purposefully broad, allowing the courts of each jurisdiction to determine the definition of facilities and services. If such a word as "residential" were to be inserted, it would eliminate STAR, a rape crisis center. It is not tied to particular facilities or services. Victims receive services in other places and are entitled to protection. In rural Alaska there are recognized safe homes, which do not receive funds from the Council on Domestic Violence. In this instance, again, the courts determine the definitions. 1:36:00 PM SENATOR HUGGINS asked how other states address the issue. MS. FLEAGLE said Minnesota statute makes it a gross misdemeanor, but it does not add aggravating factors. She called the Department of Justice and reviewed the National Crime Victimization Survey and found that felonies that are committed at shelters are not broken out so it's difficult to gather statistics. CHAIR FRENCH mused about the purposefully broad language and said although he has some qualms, this will probably be used only when a crime is committed on the grounds of a recognized shelter. MS. FLEAGLE said in rural Alaska federal funds are provided for safe homes and in those small communities they are known to be places of refuge. It would be up to local jurisdiction to determine if that is a recognized shelter or facility, she said. 1:39:20 PM CHAIR FRENCH opened public testimony. CHRIS ASHENBRENNER, Interim Program Administrator, Council on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, Juneau, told the committee that she submitted written testimony. We support this legislation and believe it's important to send the message that committing a crime at a safe haven warrants something "extra" in terms of holding the perpetrator accountable, she said. She was at the AWARE shelter when the perpetrator tried to break in several years ago. The perpetrator did not get into the shelter, but he wasn't held accountable for going after the victim who was in safe shelter, for putting others at risk, or for re-traumatizing other victims. She encouraged the committee to pass the bill because it sends a strong message. 1:41:54 PM SARALYN TABACHNICK, Executive Director, AWARE Shelter, Juneau, spoke in support of SB 150. There is a higher expectation and need for safety for this high risk population, she said. Referring to the 2005 break in at the shelter, she said it was traumatic for everyone involved. Passing this bill will promote increased safety for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and it will hold batterers accountable for their behaviors, she stated. 1:43:48 PM LINDA STANFORD, Program Director, Artic Women in Crisis (AWIC), Barrow, spoke in support of SB 150. This is an opportunity to provide tools for prosecutors and others to hold offenders accountable, she said. Safety is always a primary goal because without it you can't provide crisis intervention or help children report sexual abuse. In 2006 AWIC provided close to 3,000 safe shelter nights for women and children at the Barrow facility. That figure does not include shelter provided in safe homes in outlying villages. When the Dillingham shelter director was asked how she measures success, she said it's the children. They arrive full of fear and it takes time before they feel safe enough to want to play. But it's not just children; it takes time for all victims to feel safe again. She related several traumatizing events at AWIC to demonstrate how an entire facility can be impacted when a perpetrator tries to gain access to a shelter. We have cameras and other security features at the facility here in Barrow, but safe homes in the villages don't have those luxuries. Please take the safe homes into consideration when you look at passing SB 150, she said. They do need additional protections. 1:50:33 PM CHAIR FRENCH noted that there are letters of support from the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Ms. Ashenbrenner, Virginia Walsh who is a clinician at the Arctic Women in Crisis, and Nellie Sears who provides a safe home in Point Hope. SENATOR HUGGINS recalled that similar measures had been taken to make school sites safe. Musing about a young Georgia football player who received what many believe to be an unusually harsh sentence and a hypothetical defendant who breaks into a shelter believing it's a private home, he said he would hate to have unintended consequences related to the aggravator. SENATOR McGUIRE asked if mental intent language is used for aggravators. She suggested amending the bill to make it clear that this applies to a defendant who committed the offense on the premises with the intent to threaten or harm staff or victims. The idea is to avoid the unintended consequences that Senator Huggins is referring to, she said. 1:53:38 PM ANNE CARPENETI, Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, Department of Law, Juneau, advised that this isn't a concern for factors in aggravation and mitigation. These are discretionary factors that the court uses in the particular situation that's involved, she said. CHAIR FRENCH said under Senator Huggins' hypothetical scenario, the sentencing judge could decide what way to apply the aggravator and proceed accordingly. MS. CARPENETI said yes, and Alaska judges usually have lots of common sense. SENATOR McGUIRE recalled that knowingly is the mental intent so it would be the defendant knowingly committed the offense. MS. CARPENETI suggested you'd say "committed the offense knowing that it was a shelter." 1:55:25 PM SENATOR McGUIRE motioned to report SB 150 from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note(s). There being no objection, it was so ordered.