Legislature(1993 - 1994)

04/11/1994 08:38 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
  HOUSE BILL NO. 334                                                           
       "An Act  relating to criminal sentencing;  and relating                 
       to  mandatory  life  imprisonment,  parole,  good  time                 
       credit,  pardon,  commutation  of  sentence,  reprieve,                 
       furlough, and  service of  sentence  at a  correctional                 
       restitution center for  offenders with  at least  three                 
       serious felony convictions."                                            
  REPRESENTATIVE CON  BUNDE testified  on behalf  of CSHB  334                 
  (JUD).   He asserted  that the  legislation will  impact the                 
  "worst  of  the worst."   It  is  limited to  crimes against                 
  persons.  He  suggested that as  few as five persons  a year                 
  would be  tried under the  legislation.  He  maintained that                 
  the cost of the  legislation is difficult to ascertain.   He                 
  observed   that   the   legislation   allows   prosecutorial                 
  Representative  Bunde clarified  that  juvenile records  are                 
  sealed.  Juvenile convictions would not be considered.                       
  In   response   to   a   question   by   Co-Chair   MacLean,                 
  Representative Bunde  estimated the  recidivism rate  in the                 
  state of Alaska at 85 percent.                                               
  clarified that the  department's data system does  not tract                 
  recidivism  rates.    She  estimated   that  10  percent  of                 
  offenders would have two prior felony convictions.                           
  agreed there are  a large  number of repeat  offenders.   He                 
  described crimes that would be covered by the legislation.                   
  Mr. Guaneli provided the Committee with an  overview of CSHB
  334  (JUD).   He observed that  the legislation  is commonly                 
  known  as  "three  strikes  you're  out."   The  legislation                 
  provides that in the case of a person convicted of a class A                 
  or unclassified felony offense, with two previous successive                 
  and serious  felony convictions  the prosecution  would have                 
  the discretion to  seek a  mandatory 99 year  sentence.   He                 
  noted that  after 49  and a  half years  the offender  could                 
  petition for release.                                                        
  In response  to a  question by  Representative Hoffman,  Mr.                 
  Guaneli noted that  convictions prior to the  effective date                 
  of the  legislation would  be included  in consideration  of                 
  previous convictions.  Only the third  offense would have to                 
  take place after the legislation's effective date.                           
  Mr.  Guaneli  observed  that  references to  the  Governor's                 
  pardon power was removed.  He emphasized that the Governor's                 
  pardon power is constitutional.                                              
  Representative Brown  provided members with  an article from                 
  the  Seattle Post-Intelligence,  February 15,  1994, page  9                 
  (copy on file).  The article,  "Three strikes' May Be Harder                 
  Than Intended," discussed Washington state legislation.  She                 
  noted  that  the  article quotes  law  enforcement officers'                 
  concerns  that  suspects  are more  prone  to  violence when                 
  facing a third conviction.   She asked if it is equitable to                 
  require the same sentence of  offenders of differing degrees                 
  of offenses.   Representative Bunde suggested that  it would                 
  be fair to require a mandatory 99 year sentence, in multiple                 
  convictions,  regardless  of  the offense.    Representative                 
  Brown  questioned if  the legislation  would  make offenders                 
  more violent when cornered by the police.                                    
  Representative Brown maintained that  those people convicted                 
  of  multiple  crimes or  murder  currently are  receiving 99                 
  years.  Mr Guaneli agreed that sentencing practice generally                 
  give 99 years  for cases involving  murder when there was  a                 
  prior offense.                                                               
  Representative  Hoffman  expressed concern  with  the fiscal                 
  impact of the legislation.                                                   
  Ms. Schenker discussed the Department of Corrections' fiscal                 
  note.   Representative Bunde maintained  that estimation  of                 
  fiscal  impact should  consider  that  offenders might  have                 
  spent extra years in detention under additional offenses had                 
  they been released.                                                          
  Representative Hanley suggested  that there  is a subset  of                 
  persons with  more than  three convictions.   He  reiterated                 
  that the additional defender and  prosecution costs would be                 
  Co-Chair Larson  clarified  that  three  felonies  committed                 
  simultaneously would be considered one conviction.                           
  Representative Brown asked how  the legislation would effect                 
  the criminal justice system as a whole.                                      
  (Tape Change, HFC 94-78, Side 2)                                             
  Mr. Guaneli emphasized that the legislation is not a radical                 
  departure from current presumptive sentencing.   He stressed                 
  that  the  notion  of increasing  penalties  for  successive                 
  offenses is not new to Alaska.   He acknowledged that trials                 
  will be  long and difficult.   He added that  motions to set                 
  aside  previous convictions will  be more common.   He noted                 
  that  the  majority of  non-murder offenders,  with multiple                 
  convictions, would be sentenced to between 30 - and 50 years                 
  under  presumptive sentences, without  the legislation.   He                 
  estimated  that  the  legislation   would  result  in  these                 
  offenders receiving double the sentence.                                     
  Representative  Brown   referred  to   page   1,  line   13,                 
  "punishments for  criminal offenses should  be proportionate                 
  to both the seriousness of the  crime and the prior criminal                 
  history of the offender."  She questioned if the issuance of                 
  the same sentence for  a person who murders and a person who                 
  doesn't is appropriate.                                                      
  Representative Bunde pointed out that those that come before                 
  the purview  of  the  bill have  a  history of  crime.    He                 
  emphasized  that  prisoners  receive   time  off  for   good                 
  behavior. He asserted that the general public is  looking to                 
  the legislature to address their concerns.                                   
  In response  to a  question by  Representative Hoffman,  Ms.                 
  Schenker addressed the needs of a new correctional facility.                 
  She  noted that  the prisons are  already overcrowded.   She                 
  estimated that  the state of Alaska will begin to experience                 
  the fiscal impact of  the legislation in twelve years.   She                 
  discussed the department's attempts  in acquiring additional                 
  Representative Brown  noted concerns that  a disproportional                 
  number  of   minorities  could  be   prosecuted  under   the                 
  discretion  to   prosecute.    Mr.  Guaneli   stressed  that                 
  discretion  to prosecute  would not  be based  on racial  or                 
  other improper lines.   He suggested that the  provision for                 
  prosecutorial   discretion   could  positively   affect  the                 
  proportion of minority cases.                                                
  Representative Brown  queried what factors  would be present                 
  for prosecutors to seek the mandatory 99 year sentence.  Mr.                 
  Guaneli  stressed the  lack of rehabilitation  potential and                 
  greater than ordinary culpability.                                           
  Representative Martin  echoed concerns  that race  not be  a                 
  factor in the decision to prosecute.                                         
  Discussion pursued in  regards to funding needs  and sources                 
  for crime legislation passed by the Committee.                               
  Representative Hanley MOVED to report CSHB 334 (JUD) out  of                 
  Committee  with  individual  recommendations  and  with  the                 
  accompanying fiscal notes.   Co-Chair  MacLean OBJECTED.   A                 
  roll call vote was taken on the motion.                                      
  IN FAVOR: Hanley, Martin, Parnell, Therriault, Larson                        
  OPPOSED:  Brown, Hoffman, MacLean                                            
  Representatives  Foster, Grussendorf  and  Navarre were  not                 
  present for the vote.                                                        
  Lacking a quorum majority of six the MOTION FAILED (5-3).                    
  HB 334 failed to move from Committee on a vote of 5 to 3.                    

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