Legislature(2019 - 2020)

2019-02-20 House Journal

Full Journal pdf

2019-02-20                     House Journal                      Page 0175
HB 52                                                                                                                         
HOUSE BILL NO. 52 by the House Rules Committee by request of                                                                    
the Governor, entitled:                                                                                                         
     "An Act eliminating marriage as a defense to certain crimes of                                                             
     sexual assault; relating to enticement of a minor; relating to                                                             
     harassment in the first degree; relating to harassment in the second                                                       
     degree; relating to indecent viewing or production of a picture;                                                           
     relating to the definition of 'sexual contact'; relating to assault in                                                     
     the second degree; relating to sentencing; relating to prior                                                               
     convictions; relating to the definition of 'most serious felony';                                                          
     relating to the definition of 'sexual felony'; relating to the duty of a                                                   
     sex offender or child kidnapper to register; relating to eligibility                                                       
      for discretionary parole; and providing for an effective date."                                                          
was read the first time and referred to the Judiciary and Finance                                                               
The following fiscal note(s) apply:                                                                                             
1.  Zero, Dept. of Corrections                                                                                                  
2.  Zero, Dept. of Health & Social Services                                                                                     
3.  Zero, Dept. of Law                                                                                                          
4.  Zero, Dept. of Public Safety                                                                                                
5.  Fiscal, Dept. of Corrections                                                                                                
The Governor's transmittal letter dated January 22 follows:                                                                     
"Dear Chief Clerk:                                                                                                              
Under the authority of Article III, Section 18, of the Alaska                                                                   
Constitution, I am transmitting a bill making several amendments to                                                             

2019-02-20                     House Journal                      Page 0176
current law to address Alaska's high rate of sexual assault and sexual                                                          
abuse of minors, including recognizing changes in technology,                                                                   
clarifying the sentencing ranges for sex offenders, parole eligibility for                                                      
certain offenders, and tightening sex offender registration                                                                     
In this evolving digital age, predators have access to countless means                                                          
of communication for the purpose of victimizing others. This                                                                    
legislation will position the State and its judicial system to protect the                                                      
public within the ever-expanding economy of technology. As an                                                                   
example, under current law, it is illegal to entice or solicit sexual acts                                                      
from a minor via computer. However, as technology has advanced,                                                                 
means of communication is no longer limited to a single device. The                                                             
method of communication should be irrelevant. Our laws must focus                                                               
on the content of the communication. Therefore, the bill proposes to                                                            
make it illegal to entice or solicit sexual acts from a minor regardless                                                        
of the method of communication. The bill also makes knowingly                                                                   
viewing or producing an indecent image of an adult or a child a                                                                 
registerable sex offense. This conduct is inherently predatory and can                                                          
be more appropriately addressed through our sex offense laws.                                                                   
Additionally, the bill criminalizes repeatedly sending unwanted                                                                 
images of genitalia to another person: yet another example of                                                                   
technology being misused as a form of harassment. This change would                                                             
update our laws to reflect new technology, thus allowing the State to                                                           
address this offensive conduct.                                                                                                 
The bill also makes certain crimes that are sexual in nature punishable                                                         
as sex offenses. The bill adds conduct causing a victim to come into                                                            
unwanted contact with semen to the definition of "sexual contact"                                                               
thereby subjecting this conduct to the same punishments as other sex                                                            
offenses. Recent cases have highlighted the need to correct this gap in                                                         
the law, so the State can better address the true criminal nature of this                                                       
conduct. Further, under current law, sexual abuse of a minor in the                                                             
third degree – that is, sexual contact with a person who is 13, 14, or 15                                                       
and at least four years younger than the offender, is not sentenced as a                                                        
sexual felony. The bill proposes to sentence sexual abuse of a minor in                                                         
the third degree as a sexual felony, subject to the enhanced sentencing                                                         
range, when there is a six-year age difference between the offender                                                             
and the victim.  This distinction will allow for the current lower                                                              
sentencing structure for those cases in which the offender and victim                                                           

2019-02-20                     House Journal                      Page 0177
are closer in age and an enhanced sentencing range as the age                                                                   
difference grows wider.                                                                                                         
While State law has long prevented a person from using marriage as a                                                            
defense to most forms of sexual assault where consent is an issue,                                                              
current law still allows an individual to use marriage as a defense to                                                          
the crime of sexual assault if the person engages in sexual activity with                                                       
their spouse when they know that their spouse is mentally incapable,                                                            
incapacitated, or unaware that the sexual act is being committed. The                                                           
bill would remove this section of law and prevent a person from using                                                           
marriage as a defense if they engage in this kind of conduct. Intimate                                                          
partner sexual violence is all too common in this state. Removing this                                                          
defense will strengthen Alaska's sexual assault laws and assist in                                                              
addressing our intolerable rates of intimate partner violence.                                                                  
The bill also addresses several recent court decisions which have                                                               
effectively reduced punishments for sex offenders in Alaska. The bill                                                           
clarifies that when an offender is being sentenced for a sexual felony,                                                         
all of the offender's prior felonies, both non-sexual and sexual, will                                                          
count when determining the appropriate presumptive sentencing range.                                                            
It is important that all felony criminal history regardless of nature is                                                        
considered when determining an appropriate sentence. The bill also                                                              
clarifies that those offenders who are ineligible for good time credit                                                          
are also ineligible for discretionary parole. It makes little sense for a                                                       
person to be deemed so dangerous that they are not eligible for                                                                 
statutory good time, but, at the same time, allow them to be eligible for                                                       
discretionary parole. Finally, the bill requires sex offenders, who have                                                        
been convicted and required to register as a sex offender in another                                                            
state, to register in Alaska regardless of whether Alaska has a similar                                                         
offense in statute. This is a matter of reciprocity and improves the                                                            
State's ability to protect the public from sex offenders who may come                                                           
to this state.                                                                                                                  
I urge your prompt and favorable action on this measure.                                                                        
Michael J. Dunleavy