Legislature(1993 - 1994)
04/18/1994 01:00 PM House JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 221 - ARREST OF MINORS FOR CONSUMING ALCOHOL Number 042 JOE AMBROSE, Chief of Staff to Senator Robin Taylor, described SB 221 and said Senator Taylor was the prime sponsor of the bill. The bill was introduced this bill at the request of concerned parents, law enforcement agencies in the first judicial district, and Alaskans for drug free youth. In May of last year state troopers and municipal police departments were directed not to arrest minors under the influence of alcohol (minor consuming statute) unless the arresting officer actually saw the minor consume the alcohol. The directive was issued after two judicial officers ruled that merely being under the influence in the officers' presence was not enough to make an arrest. The District Attorney's directive stated, "Officers who encounter minors under the influence should issue citations rather than make arrests." The court ruling left law enforcement officers in the position of either leaving such a minor on the street, or taking the minor into protective custody. Past practice had been to arrest the minor and turn the youth over to parents or legal guardians. He SB 221 would add minor consuming to the list of crimes that allow for warrantless arrests. While the court ruling currently impacts only the first judicial district, it could be extended to other jurisdictions. Senator Taylor's goal in sponsoring the bill was not to increase the number of arrests for minor consuming; but he does not believe the legislature ever intended for a police officer to simply write a ticket and walk away from a minor who is under the influence. The bill is more about protecting young people than prosecuting them. Number 090 REPRESENTATIVE GAIL PHILLIPS asked how in the world the district attorney could justify a ruling when there is already a law in the book that says it is illegal for someone under the age of 21 to consume alcohol. She expressed absolute amazement. Number 100 CHAIRMAN PORTER stated that the district attorney has to follow the policy of the court, and the court, whether you agree with it or not, is a distinctly different body of government, and they have the ability to make decisions based upon their interpretation of the law. Number 106 REP. PHILLIPS asked how they could refute an existing law that says it is illegal if you are under 21. Number 109 CHAIRMAN PORTER replied that he would not be the one to try to explain the logic of that court decision. That is why he would be in support of the bill. REP. PHILLIPS asked if the law applied to just the first judicial district or if it included everybody. CHAIRMAN PORTER answered that yes, it was intended to include everybody. He thought the first judicial district was the only district that had made this interpretation. He said the bill would not change the application of the law in any other jurisdiction he knew of, except the first, where it is needed. Number 123 MR. AMBROSE pointed out that the officers do have the option of protective custody, which is an expensive proposition at the local level, because you have to take them to a hospital, and then you've got to figure out what you are going to do with them next. Some communities do not have available facilities and the minors often end up riding around in a police car for the rest of the night, effectively taking that officer out of duty. Number 130 CHAIRMAN PORTER said the other option is a citation and release, in which case you have an intoxicated kid on the street, which does not do a lot of good. Number 137 REPRESENTATIVE JEANNETTE JAMES responded, stating that absolutely getting them off of the street is the thing to do, and she thinks we have jumped over the fence to being more concerned, now that we have had many of our teenagers killed in traffic accidents, and so forth. Previously, it was like, "Oh he was just a little kid that had a little flight that night. Let us just take him back to his parents, because then that way it could all be hush hushed, and so forth." That idea is gone forever because alcohol and drugs are the two biggest causes for all of our crime, and all of our accidents, all of the problems that we suffer in the state. Rep. James said she thought that the attitude seems to be switching, and hopefully the court will catch up. Number 163 MR. AMBROSE stated that the sad thing is, in Juneau, after this ruling, kids were actually taunting police officers on the street because they knew that the policemen could not do anything more than write them a ticket. Number 167 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked if there were any other questions to be asked of Mr. Ambrose. There were not, nor were there any more people wishing to give testimony on SB 221. Number 172 REP. JAMES moved to move the bill out with individual recommendations and the attached fiscal note. CHAIRMAN PORTER stated that, with no objection, SB 221 was moved. He then welcomed Michael Stark from the Department of Law, inviting him to testify on HB 523.