Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/22/1995 11:12 AM House JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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.