Legislature(1997 - 1998)

02/16/1998 01:08 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
HB 273 - NOTIFY COMMUNITY ABOUT SEX OFFENDERS                                  
                                                                               
Number 2006                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN GREEN announced the final item of business would be HB
273, "An Act relating to notification of the public concerning sex             
offenders."                                                                    
                                                                               
Number 2034                                                                    
                                                                               
EDDIE GRASSER, Legislative Assistant to Representative Beverly                 
Masek, Alaska State Legislature, came forward on behalf of the                 
sponsor, advising members that Representative Masek was out of                 
town.  He expressed hope that the new proposed committee substitute            
[Version E] addresses some of the concerns raised at the hearing               
during the interim.  It takes out the requirement to notify                    
individual households or businesses within a neighborhood.                     
Instead, it requires putting a legal notice in a newspaper of local            
distribution or notifying the head of a local community council, if            
one is established in that community, area, or borough.  Notice                
would also be provided to the superintendent of schools, as well as            
to other persons the department determines necessary to notify.                
                                                                               
Number 2135                                                                    
                                                                               
MR. GRASSER, indicating they had spoken with Representative                    
Rokeberg about real estate concerns, stated, "I think                          
Representative Masek agreed that if the committee would want to do             
that, that would not be a problem with her."  Mr. Grasser said they            
had also tried to address concerns about the fiscal note by making             
neighborhood notification through the newspaper.  He acknowledged              
the tremendous effort that the department would have to go through             
to notify individual households.                                               
                                                                               
MR. GRASSER said there had been questions about the rights of the              
offender after leaving jail and moving into a neighborhood,                    
including the threat of vigilante activity.  He also said the bill             
is pretty simple; it just adds one section to current statute.  He             
concluded by indicating the sponsor's willingness to discuss any               
other concerns.                                                                
                                                                               
Number 2221                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN GREEN referred to page 2 of Version E, which talks about              
the presidents of the community councils.  He pointed out that in              
District 10 there are common lines where three community councils              
come together.  A person living inside one area may have a close               
neighbor who lives in another area.  Chairman Green asked whether              
Mr. Grasser had done research regarding liability that would come              
because the neighborhoods closest to the sex offender weren't                  
notified other than by newspaper.  He further asked whether any                
liability would attach to the president of the community council,              
for example.                                                                   
                                                                               
Number 2306                                                                    
                                                                               
MR. GRASSER said that is a good question, which he had discussed               
with Representative Masek; if the committee desired to take out                
that section, she would not be totally adverse to that.  Her                   
concern is trying to get some protection to children, which is why             
she would like some extended notification procedures beyond just               
being able to go down to the local law enforcement agency or trying            
to find it on the Internet.  Mr. Grasser agreed there are liability            
questions.                                                                     
                                                                               
Number 2370                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ made a motion to adopt as a work draft                
Version E [0-LS1011\E, Luckhaupt, 2/3/98].  There being no                     
objection, it was so ordered.                                                  
                                                                               
Number 2399                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG said he had talked to the sponsor and her              
staff about the problem with Megan's Law and the real estate                   
community.  Referring to other legislation, he indicated he had                
added a related provision in the real estate licensing law, as part            
of that chapter.  He expressed hope that it would survive there,               
which would make it unnecessary here.                                          
                                                                               
TAPE 98-18, SIDE A                                                             
Number 0006                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER made a motion to delete lines 3 through 6 of             
page 2, the community council section regarding notification.                  
                                                                               
MR. GRASSER told members he had spoken to Representative Masek                 
about liability questions that might arise if, for example, the                
president of a community council received notice but failed to                 
notify several households for some reason.  Mr. Grasser stated,                
"And I told her I don't think we want to get into that.  And I told            
her I think by putting it in the newspaper and notifying the                   
superintendent, we were covering as many bases as we possibly could            
beyond what's presently occurring.  So, no, I don't think she would            
mind."                                                                         
                                                                               
Number 0128                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER formally restated his motion to delete lines             
3 through 6 of page 2, and to renumber accordingly.  There being no            
objection, it was so ordered.                                                  
                                                                               
Number 0150                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ referred to testimony heard during the                
interim from "Billie," the grandmother of a victim and the mother              
of an offender; she had raised the point that sometimes divulging              
the name of the offender can bring additional trauma to the victim.            
Representative Berkowitz said he was wondering if there a way to               
allow the victim to have some say in disclosure of information.                
                                                                               
Number 0227                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said that to add fuel to the discussion, there            
are also victims who become enablers.  "I can see a situation where            
a victim would take the name off the list because they participate             
in their own revictimization, this ongoing cycle of abuse that                 
occurs many times, where victims get caught up in the process and              
actually protect the victimizer," he explained.                                
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said that is a different issue; this is just              
an additional listing of something already listed.                             
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN GREEN suggested the issue is whether or not the victim                
wants the world to know, whether from empathy or because of not                
wanting to revisit it.                                                         
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES asked what part of this bill would accelerate             
that concern.                                                                  
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN GREEN said the newspaper.                                             
                                                                               
Number 0368                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE pointed out that on page 1, section (C)                   
requires notice of the crime for which the offender was convicted.             
"If I publish a guy's name and the fact that he was convicted of               
incest, we're also publishing the victim's name de facto," he                  
explained.                                                                     
                                                                               
Number 0409                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER said in terms of the victim's being a victim             
and for that reason not wanting this to become public, he believes             
that is more relevant in the standard physical abuse domestic                  
violence case than in sexual assault.  He suggested it would be                
very appropriate, for all the reasons stated, to have a proviso in             
here that the victim has the ability to say yes or no to these                 
publications.  He said it is bad enough that it will be on the                 
Internet; when it goes to the school and is in the paper, that is              
just about everybody who is notified.                                          
                                                                               
Number 0469                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN GREEN asked Mr. Grasser what he believes Representative               
Masek would think about a proviso like that.                                   
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES suggested that a proviso requiring permission             
from the victim before providing notice would complicate the issue             
a lot more than having a straight list of what people must do who              
are responsible for providing the notice.  What would they do if               
the victim were no longer in the state or lived in another area?               
She suggested perhaps it could be clarified to require consulting              
any victims who lived in the area, for example.  She asked how much            
they should depend on the victim before acting.                                
                                                                               
Number 0586                                                                    
                                                                               
MR. GRASSER mentioned the testimony of "Billie" discussed by                   
Representative Berkowitz.                                                      
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ said that perpetrator had turned himself              
in after an incident of abuse, confessed fully, took responsibility            
and was making steps towards rehabilitation.  And it was a case                
where everyone in the community, as he understood it, could readily            
ascertain who the victim was.  Although Anchorage and perhaps                  
Fairbanks or Juneau have populations sufficient to provide a degree            
of anonymity, in smaller communities of the state, he said, he                 
would suspect that most people already know anyway.                            
                                                                               
Number 0671                                                                    
                                                                               
MR. GRASSER pointed out that legal notices are tiny ads in the back            
of the newspaper.  He offered the opinion that because this                    
information is on the Internet and available at the local law                  
enforcement agency, putting it in the legal section of the                     
newspaper wouldn't increase awareness in an increased portion of               
the public.                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked the reason for the bill, then.                   
                                                                               
MR. GRASSER said people can look if they don't have access to the              
Internet.                                                                      
                                                                               
Number 0721                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER suggested a victim would be present during a             
trial, and it wouldn't be too difficult to get the consent or                  
waiver then or shortly after conviction, prior to sentencing.  He              
said as he reads it, it is a requirement on the Department of                  
Public Safety (DPS) to make these notifications once, not over the             
life of the registration or every time an address changes.                     
                                                                               
MR. GRASSER said as he understands from talking to department                  
personnel, that is their understanding also.  He told members he               
needs to talk to Representative Masek to see whether that is what              
she really intended.  He pointed out that the DPS fiscal note                  
contains an estimate in the analysis of what it would cost to                  
provide the newspaper notice monthly, through fiscal year 2004,                
while he believes the fiscal note itself is based on yearly                    
notification.                                                                  
                                                                               
Number 0958                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE commented that if it is there, someone,                   
somewhere, is going to read it.  He advised members that he has a              
great deal of concern about incest relating to publication of the              
offender's name and the crime, which he believes advertises who the            
victims are.  He suggested there are some privacy concerns there.              
He acknowledged that some victims may want this published but                  
should have the option.  He suggested it would be very easy, at                
sentencing, for the judge to announce that unless the victim comes             
forward with reason for them to consider not complying with this,              
they will comply.  That would allow some discretion on the part of             
the judge.  Representative Bunde concluded that without some                   
protection of incest victims, he has a problem with the bill.                  
                                                                               
Number 0994                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN GREEN expressed his understanding that for sex crimes                 
against children, some 80 percent are either by a relative or                  
someone known well by the victim.                                              
                                                                               
Number 1017                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ asked, "After we've provided notice to the            
superintendent of the school district, what are they supposed to               
do?  And if they don't do it and something bad happens, is the                 
school district liable?"                                                       
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN GREEN asked Anne Carpeneti whether she could respond.                 
                                                                               
Number 1056                                                                    
                                                                               
ANNE CARPENETI, Assistant Attorney General, Legal Services Section-            
Juneau, Criminal Division, Department of Law, first pointed out                
that she works for the Criminal Division.  She then stated her                 
understanding that when they report incest, they don't use that                
term because of the nature of the crime.  Rather, they use "sexual             
abuse."  She pointed out that incest can be between adults.                    
                                                                               
Number 1065                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ asked about liability attaching to the                
school district and its responsibility to act after receiving                  
information about a sex offender in the district.  He suggested                
that if the district failed to act in a certain way and harm befell            
someone who was somehow within the district's care, the school                 
district could be liable for that harm.                                        
                                                                               
MS. CARPENETI said it is a good question but she would prefer to               
have someone from the Civil Division answer it.                                
                                                                               
Number 1104                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG stated his understanding that when the                 
registry is now published on the Internet, the crime is not                    
specified.                                                                     
                                                                               
Number 1138                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE suggested that if it is not listed as "incest"            
but as "sexual abuse," that lessens his anxiety about it.                      
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked whether it has the Alaska citation               
for incest.                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. CARPENETI said she believes it does.  She said she would have              
to double-check, but she believes it says "sexual abuse" rather                
than "incest" for that very reason.                                            
                                                                               
Number 1166                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER suggested the statutes would probably say,               
"sexual abuse in the 'X' degree."                                              
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG stated his understanding that incest is                
under a separate statute.                                                      
                                                                               
Number 1198                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. CARPENETI specified that she hadn't anticipated testifying on              
this bill.  She then said, "I'm assuming that if the victim is a               
minor, the defendant is charged with sexual abuse of a minor.  It              
is also against the law to commit incest in the state, and I'm                 
assuming that adults who commit incest would be charged under the              
regular incest statute."                                                       
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ said that is AS 11.41.450.                            
                                                                               
Number 1239                                                                    
                                                                               
MR. GRASSER referred to the issue of liability on the part of                  
superintendents, which he said he had discussed with the DPS.  He              
suggested they also need to hear from the Department of Law.  Mr.              
Grasser told members, "Our conclusion on discussion was that since             
this information is already available on the Internet, or down at              
the local law enforcement agency, we felt that if somebody didn't              
have the information, it wouldn't necessarily create a liability               
question for the superintendent if he, for some reason, decided not            
to notify anybody.  But that's, again, something that somebody in              
the Department of Law needs to answer."                                        
                                                                               
Number 1273                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN GREEN suggested that if it was in statute that the                    
superintendent must be notified specifically, that might incur a               
duty that wouldn't normally be there.                                          
                                                                               
MS. CARPENETI said she would like to ask the department's civil                
attorneys that question, adding that it is a good question.                    
                                                                               
Number 1304                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said he would like to hear from others on                 
this, including superintendents of school and the Department of                
Law.  He also asked that the sponsor further address the idea that             
the judge would provide the victim a period of time at sentencing,             
that if the judge doesn't hear from the victim a good and                      
sufficient reason that this shouldn't go forth, it would go forth.             
                                                                               
Number 1341                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asking Ms. Carpeneti whether having the                
caveat of asking the victim would be in violation of Megan's Law or            
the Wetterling Act.                                                            
                                                                               
Number 1353                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. CARPENETI replied that it is a very interesting issue.  She                
said she'd been thinking about it ever since it was raised, because            
she also had heard that testimony this summer, which was                       
heartbreaking.  On the other hand, there are people who victimize              
children, and the point of the Wetterling Act is to allow people to            
know, so that the parents can protect their children and protect               
themselves from people who tend to do these bad things over and                
over again.  Ms. Carpeneti stated, "I clearly feel for these                   
people, and I would like to think about if there's alternatives.               
I would be concerned that a person victimized another child, and               
the only reason that his or her name wasn't published was because              
the first victim, understandably, didn't want his or her name                  
publicized.  I think it's a real tough issue."                                 
                                                                               
Number 1405                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked whether they couldn't do that by                 
publishing the name of the sex offender without specifying the                 
crime, which might lead to identification of the victim.                       
                                                                               
MS. CARPENETI said that is a possibility, although if she were                 
looking at the sex offender registration, she would be interested              
in knowing whether a person was convicted of rape or sexual abuse              
of a minor in the third degree.  She said that would make a                    
difference to her.                                                             
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG agreed but expressed concern.                          
                                                                               
MS. CARPENETI advised members that the federal government provides             
that victims' names should not be revealed.  She acknowledged,                 
however, that for some offenses that is difficult to do in small               
communities.                                                                   
                                                                               
Number 1441                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said his question regarding the federal law is            
whether the victim could request prevention of the publication, to             
be decided by the judge.                                                       
                                                                               
MS. CARPENETI pointed out that this bill only addresses additional             
publication from what is already done and made available.  "So, I              
guess I wouldn't be terribly concerned if this particular provision            
were limited, but ... whether you limited the ability of a person              
to go into the Department of Public Safety and look at the                     
registration information, I would like to think about that," she               
said.                                                                          
                                                                               
Number 1508                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER suggested that nothing in this bill, whether             
it had a requirement for victim approval or not, would have any                
effect on the existing law regarding registration and the                      
availability of that registration to public access.  He said his               
own reaction right away was to victims' rights, which is in the                
constitution now.  He said at some point, we have to consider those            
things.  Representative Porter added that it is a close call,                  
saying he couldn't think of a victim of a pedophile who would not              
want that person's name out there, but then suggesting that might              
not be the case.                                                               
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN GREEN pointed out that there were several questions for               
the sponsor to review.                                                         
                                                                               
Number 1582                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ noted the clear need for balance between              
protecting the community as a whole, which registration aims to do             
generally, and the interests of the victim, which he believes                  
should be addressed.  He suggested if they could find a way to                 
navigate between the interests of the victim and the interests of              
the community, they have a chance of doing something unique here,              
which people would look to and say that this is the way sexual                 
registration ought to be done.  He offered to help the sponsor work            
towards that.                                                                  
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN GREEN offered to talk to Mr. Grasser following the meeting            
about members' questions.  [HB 273 was held over.]                             

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