Legislature(1993 - 1994)

04/18/1994 01:00 PM House JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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                    
  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.                                   

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