Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/28/1995 03:35 PM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 SSTA - 3/28/95                                                                
                                                                               
             HB  74 ASSAULT BY ADULTS ON CHILDREN                          
                                                                               
 SENATOR SHARP brings up HB 74 as the next order of business before            
 the Senate State Affairs Committee and calls the first witness.               
                                                                               
 TAPE 95-13, SIDE B                                                            
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE CON BUNDE, prime sponsor of HB 74, relays                      
 information contained in the sponsor substitute to the committee.             
 Representative Bunde states there is a lot of public support behind           
 HB 74.                                                                        
                                                                               
 Number 555                                                                    
 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS commented he has had one phone call on HB              
 74, and that call was in opposition to HB 74.  Senator Phillips               
 asks where the case is right now.                                             
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE responds the case is in the process of going             
 to trial.  Prosecutors are having to be "encouraged" to take the              
 case to trial; they were going to plea bargain.                               
                                                                               
 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asks what the maximum penalty would be.                
                                                                               
 PATTY SWENSON, Aide to Representative Bunde, replies the maximum              
 penalty would be one year incarceration and a $5,000 fine.                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE adds he has not heard of any instance in which           
 first time misdemeanants have been required to serve prison time.             
 There is usually a suspended sentence.                                        
                                                                               
 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS refers to the old saying which basically               
 states law shouldn't be made because of one case.  He also asked              
 how HB 74 would affect a property owner's right to protect his or             
 her property.                                                                 
                                                                               
 Number 535                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE replies, out of the hundreds, if not over one            
 thousand responses he has received, Senator Phillips is only about            
 the fourth person to assert that HB 74 might affect a property                
 owner's right to protect their property.  Will a property owner be            
 charged with a felony for protecting his or her property?                     
 Representative Bunde stresses that prosecutorial discretion will              
 protect the property owner.  First, the kid threatening the                   
 property or the property owner will have to convince a prosecutor             
 that he was attacked, and was not the cause of the attack.  He                
 understands the concern, but does not see it as a problem.                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS reiterates the only call he has received on            
 HB 74 was in opposition to the bill, for the previously mentioned             
 scenario.  We are referring to one case; unless there are a number            
 of cases in which this problem is occurring, he hates to pass a law           
 because of one case.                                                          
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY thinks, in regards to Senator Phillips' concern that           
 law not be made because of one case, that there are probably a lot            
 of cases in which HB 74 would apply, which have simply not been as            
 visible as the one case which was the impetus behind the bill.                
                                                                               
 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asks Senator Donley if he thinks HB 74 would           
 affect the rights of property owners to protect their property.               
                                                                               
 Number 515                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY responds that any steps a property owner takes to              
 defend his or her property would not be made any more legal or                
 illegal by HB 74.  It just changes the potential maximum penalty.             
                                                                               
 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS is worried that if a property owner                    
 physically escorts a trespasser from his or her property, they will           
 be charged with a felony.                                                     
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY replies a property owner is, and would still be                
 allowed, to use reasonable force to protect his or her property.              
                                                                               
 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asks if a property owner could use a                   
 shotgun.                                                                      
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY responds that is not reasonable force; that is                 
 deadly force.  HB 74 will not affect whether the property owner's           
 defense is legal or not.                                                      
                                                                               
 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asks what if the trespasser is destroying              
 property.                                                                     
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY replies HB 74 will not affect the parameters of what           
 property owners can and cannot do to defend their property.                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE adds that, under existing statute, reasonable            
 force may be used to defend one's property.  In some cases,                   
 reasonable force could be pretty aggressive; in other cases,                  
 depending on the situation, a property owner's response could be              
 considered assault.  Representative Bunde understands Senator                 
 Phillips' concern.  HB 74 will not change the restrictions by which           
 a property owner is constrained in defending his or her property or           
 life.  The only change would be, if there was a charge brought                
 against a property owner, and if the prosecutor was convinced that            
 it was a really egregious case, the property owner could be charged           
 with a felony instead of a class A misdemeanor.  We all know that             
 in practical application, a first time conviction receiving the               
 maximum penalty allowed for a class A misdemeanor is more severe              
 than the minimum penalty for a felony.  There is public outcry that           
 this tool be available to prosecutors, if necessary.                          
                                                                               
 [Representative Bunde show the committee approximately 500                    
 signatures on petitions in favor of HB 74, and informs the                    
 committee he has more in his office.]                                         
                                                                               
 Number 480                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY states he is concerned with the use of deadly force,           
 because he thinks there is too much constraint put on property                
 owners, in that one is supposed to allow one's self to be                     
 endangered before protecting one's self.  He did look into that as            
 Judiciary Chairman several years ago, and satisfied himself that              
 Alaska Statutes are pretty good on that subject.  Deadly force is             
 allowable when one is physically threatened.  Other reasonable                
 force is allowed to protect one's property.  To go beyond that, to            
 allow property owners to shoot people because they are carrying off           
 a bird bath--I don't know if you would want to do that.                       
                                                                               
 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS thinks the question needs to be asked.                 
 Secondly, should law be made on one publicized case?                          
                                                                               
 SENATOR DONLEY agrees with that, but he thinks that whole area of             
 law should be revisited and that there should be stronger assault             
 laws.  It is a shame it has to be driven by the event that was the            
 impetus for HB 74.  He thinks there is a problem with assault being           
 taken to lightly by the justice system.  Judges, police, and                  
 prosecutors become desensitized to assault with all the murders,              
 rapes, and kidnappings with which they have to deal.                          
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN makes a motion to discharge HB 74 from the Senate               
 State Affairs Committee with individual recommendations.                      
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN SHARP, hearing no objection, orders HB 74 be released from           
 committee with individual recommendations.                                    

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