Legislature(2019 - 2020)

2019-01-23 Senate Journal

Full Journal pdf

2019-01-23                     Senate Journal                      Page 0081
SB 32                                                                                                                         
SENATE BILL NO. 32 BY THE SENATE RULES COMMITTEE                                                                                
BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR, entitled:                                                                                           
          "An Act relating to criminal law and procedure;                                                                       
          relating to controlled substances; relating to                                                                        
          probation; relating to sentencing; relating to reports                                                                
          of involuntary commitment; amending Rule 6,                                                                           
          Alaska Rules of Criminal Procedure; and providing                                                                     
          for an effective date."                                                                                               
was read the first time and referred to the Judiciary and Finance                                                               
The following fiscal information was published today:                                                                           
 Fiscal Note No. 1, zero, Department of Public Safety                                                                           
 Fiscal Note No. 2, Department of Law                                                                                           
 Fiscal Note No. 3, indeterminate, Department of Administration                                                                 
 Fiscal Note No. 4, indeterminate, Department of Administration                                                                 
 Fiscal Note No. 5, zero, Department of Health and Social Services                                                              
 Fiscal Note No. 6, Department of Corrections                                                                                   
Governor's transmittal letter dated January 22:                                                                                 
Dear Senate President Giessel:                                                                                                  
Under the authority of Article III, Section 18, of the Alaska                                                                   
Constitution, I am transmitting a bill relating to the classification of                                                        
crimes, sentencing, and probation.                                                                                              

2019-01-23                     Senate Journal                      Page 0082
By far, the most serious threat facing Alaska is crime. In 2017, the rate                                                       
of crime increased across all major categories from 2016 – violent                                                              
crimes, including murder, rape, robbery, and assault increased by                                                               
seven percent; property crimes such as car theft and burglary rose by                                                           
six percent. These statistics are even more dramatic when compared to                                                           
the rate of crime in 2013. In 2017, property crime was up by                                                                    
22 percent and violent crime was up 34 percent when compared to                                                                 
crime statistics from 2013. Alaskans do not feel safe in their homes,                                                           
businesses are being targeted, and communities are impacted by                                                                  
senseless acts of violence.                                                                                                     
One major event occurred as the rate of crime began to rise – the                                                               
passage of Senate Bill 91 (SB 91). SB 91 has limited our ability to                                                             
address the increase in crime and how we deal with criminals. Most                                                              
importantly, SB 91 has contributed to the loss of public trust in our                                                           
criminal justice system and our ability to keep Alaskans safe.                                                                  
We need to ensure that public safety officers, prosecutors, courts, and                                                         
correctional institutions have the tools they need to keep our                                                                  
communities safe and we need to send the message to criminals that                                                              
Alaskans will no longer be victims. We need a strong criminal justice                                                           
system – not a weak one. We must repeal SB 91 and put in place laws                                                             
that protect Alaskans from those who choose to harm them.                                                                       
This bill repeals provisions of SB 91 that relate to the classification of                                                      
crimes, sentencing, and probation of offenders. Measures in this bill                                                           
will increase sentencing and probation lengths for most offenses,                                                               
create additional tools which will allow the State to identify repeat                                                           
offenders and those that threaten others, strengthen penalties for drug                                                         
traffickers that prey on Alaskans through the distribution of drugs, and                                                        
finally, create efficiencies within the criminal justice system – giving                                                        
our prosecutors and courts the tools they need.                                                                                 
Increased Sentencing Ranges and Probation Lengths                                                                           
This bill will reenact the sentencing ranges that were in law prior to                                                          
the passage of SB 91 which will effectively increase the range of                                                               
sentences by approximately two years for most Class A, B, and C                                                                 
felonies. The bill will remove the 30-day sentencing cap for                                                                    
misdemeanors and, once again, give judges the discretion to sentence a                                                          
person who is convicted of a Class A misdemeanor to up to one year                                                              

2019-01-23                     Senate Journal                      Page 0083
in jail. It will return the maximum sentence for Class B misdemeanors                                                           
to 90 days. Likewise, maximum probation lengths are returned to                                                                 
lengths allowable before the passage of SB 91. The maximum                                                                      
probation term for sex offenders will be 25 years and the maximum                                                               
probation term for all other offenses will be 10 years. The increased                                                           
sentencing ranges and probation terms will allow judges the discretion                                                          
to impose sentences that are appropriate for the conduct and                                                                    
circumstances of each case.                                                                                                     
Additional Tools to Address Repeat Offenders and Threats                                                                    
The State’s current laws are inadequate when it comes to addressing                                                             
threats made to others – especially in our schools. In this digital age,                                                        
threats can be communicated through numerous platforms and can                                                                  
have a devastating impact on those who receive them. The bill                                                                   
proposes to enact a threat statute that will better address threats that                                                        
place others in fear of physical injury or cause the evacuation of public                                                       
Additionally, current law requires a person to submit a DNA sample                                                              
upon arrest and conviction of certain crimes. This sample is checked                                                            
against a national database and may help determine whether a person                                                             
is suspected of committing other crimes in another state. It is currently                                                       
a crime to refuse to submit a DNA sample upon conviction, however,                                                              
there is no penalty for refusing to submit a sample upon arrest. The bill                                                       
will close this loophole and make it a Class A misdemeanor to refuse                                                            
to submit a DNA sample when a person is arrested for a qualifying                                                               
Stronger Penalties for Drug Traffickers                                                                                     
This legislation will reenact the drug offense structure that was in                                                            
place prior to SB 91, returning the focus from the quantity of a                                                                
distributed drug to the nature of the drug itself. This structure will                                                          
better address the danger of certain types of drugs and return                                                                  
discretion to judges to assess the significance of multiple factors such                                                        
as the purity, the street value in a particular community, and the                                                              
relative availability or scarcity of the drug in a particular community.                                                        
This legislation also reclassifies distribution crimes to higher level                                                          
offenses. Finally, this legislation will reenact the enhanced sentencing                                                        
ranges for making methamphetamine around children or engaging                                                                   

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children in the sale of methamphetamine. The process of making                                                                  
methamphetamine is extremely dangerous and is often done in a                                                                   
person’s dwelling putting everyone in the area, including children, at                                                          
Criminal Justice Efficiencies                                                                                               
Finally, it is critical that our criminal justice system is evaluated to                                                        
improve processes and find efficiencies. To that end, the bill                                                                  
streamlines the grand jury process by allowing prosecutors to use a                                                             
person’s “rap sheet” or Alaska Public Safety Information Network                                                                
report to prove the existence of prior convictions when prior                                                                   
convictions are an element of an offense. For example, if a person has                                                          
two prior convictions for assault, the third assault will be a felony.                                                          
This will require proof of the existence of the prior convictions.                                                              
Allowing the use of a rap sheet at the indictment phase of the case,                                                            
instead of requiring certified judgments, which may take days to                                                                
obtain, will expedite the process and protect the public by keeping                                                             
dangerous offenders in State custody while awaiting trial.                                                                      
The bill proposes to allow the court system to give the Department of                                                           
Public Safety information about those who have been involuntarily                                                               
committed and, therefore, cannot possess firearms. Under current law,                                                           
the court system may only provide information from 2014 forward.                                                                
The bill will allow the court system to provide information prior to                                                            
2014 so that the Department of Public Safety may have a more                                                                    
complete record of who these prohibited individuals are and better                                                              
protect the public.                                                                                                             
I urge your prompt and favorable action on this measure.                                                                        
Michael J. Dunleavy