Legislature(1995 - 1996)

04/22/1995 11:12 AM House JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 HB 255 - NEGLIGENT HOMICIDE BY AUTOMOBILE                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT OGAN, bill sponsor, explained that he had                
 worked out a compromise with the Department of Law.  The title also           
 needs to be amended, for the record.  We are not creating the crime           
 of criminally negligent homicide, but Margot Knuth can adequately             
 address the change.  The writer of the committee substitute (CS)              
 missed that one.  The Department of Law took a look at the statutes           
 surrounding deaths involving automobiles and indicated they would             
 like criminally negligent homicide upgraded from a class C to a               
 class B felony.  To address our concerns about the possibility of             
 the act we were trying to create before being included in a lesser            
 included offense, we settled for adding negligent driving to a type           
 of conviction that would mean grounds for revocation of a driver's            
 license.  The charges brought against the driver who killed the               
 Campbell and Richardson boys was negligent driving.  The judge did            
 not have the latitude to revoke the license.  This would not                  
 compromise in any way, the criminally negligent homicide                      
 convictions and we feel this CS is an acceptable alternative.                 
 There is a zero fiscal note attached.                                         
 Number 080                                                                    
 MARGOT KNUTH, Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division,                  
 Department of Law, explained that this bill now does two different            
 things.  The first is to raise criminally negligent homicide from             
 a class C to a class B felony, and the reason for that is that last           
 time we were discussing this bill we were talking about lesser                
 included offenses.  Criminally negligent homicide is a lesser                 
 included offense of manslaughter, which is a class A felony.  The             
 Department of Law has long felt that the gap between the A felony             
 of manslaughter and the C felony of criminally negligent homicide             
 is too great, and they ought to be right next to each other.  In              
 situations that were the motivation for this bill, if alcohol were            
 involved, or if the conduct was more culpable, it would constitute            
 this offense, and a class B felony is appropriate in that instance.           
 MS. KNUTH explained that the second thing this CS does is to amend            
 AS 21.15.181 so that driving privileges may be revoked in the                 
 discretion of the court for the offense violation of negligent                
 driving.  This is done by simply adding it to the list in AS                  
 28.15.181.  There is no mandatory minimum period of revocation.  It           
 would be within the judge's discretion.  In those instances where             
 it does not seem appropriate at all, it will not happen; but in               
 aggravated circumstances it will become an available option.  There           
 are two minor problems with the work draft.  One was eluded to                
 already, the title.  Instead of an act creating the crime of                  
 criminally negligent homicide, it probably should read, "An Act               
 raising the penalty for the crime of criminally negligent                     
 homicide."  The second matter is that there is a statute that says            
 you cannot revoke driving privileges for violations.  That is AS              
 28.40.050(D).  What is appropriate to do, is to add "except as                
 provided in AS 28.15.181."                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE CYNTHIA TOOHEY asked if they could make that a                 
 friendly amendment which would do as Ms. Knuth described.                     
 CHAIRMAN PORTER said they could do so.                                        
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVID FINKELSTEIN referred to the second page where            
 it refers to negligent driving and asked what would be the affect             
 if you said, "negligent driving resulting in serious bodily                   
 injury?"  This would be trying to get back to what the original               
 intent of the bill was.                                                       
 MS. KNUTH had a concern about adding those words.  She said that              
 would be an additional burden of what needs to be established in              
 the case.  She did not feel the discretion was likely to be abused            
 in these cases.                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY also believed it would read more clearly if             
 we added, "resulted in physical injury."                                      
 MS. KNUTH said if we did that, it would put us back into a lesser             
 included offense situation which we would rather not do.                      
 REPRESENTATIVE AL VEZEY wanted to know what the difference was                
 between reckless and negligent driving.                                       
 MS. KNUTH answered that the criminal code gives you definitions for           
 those.  The distinction has to do with the level of disregard.                
 Recklessness is usually a gross disregard, and negligence is a                
 simple disregard.  Reckless driving is a misdemeanor.  Negligent              
 driving is a violation.  In terms of seriousness, recklessness is             
 above negligence.                                                             
 REPRESENTATIVE CON BUNDE moved to adopt the CS for HB 255, version            
 C.  Hearing no objection, the CSHB 255(JUD) was adopted.  He then             
 made a motion to adopt Amendment Number 1, which would change the             
 title to, "An Act raising the penalties for the crime of negligent            
 vehicular homicide."  Hearing no objection, it was so ordered.                
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE moved Amendment Number 2 be adopted which                
 would create a Section 3 that would read, after "AS 28.40.050(d),"            
 "except as provided in AS 28.15.181(a).  Hearing no objection,                
 Amendment Number 2 was adopted.                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE made a motion to move CSHB 255(JUD) out of               
 committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal                 
 notes.  Hearing no objection, it was so ordered.                              

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