Legislature(1999 - 2000)

03/27/2000 01:20 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
HB 367 - REVOCATION OF DRIVING PRIVILEGES                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT announced that the first order of business would be                                                               
HOUSE BILL NO. 367, "An Act providing for the revocation of driving                                                             
privileges by a court for a driver convicted of a violation of                                                                  
traffic laws in connection with a fatal motor vehicle or commercial                                                             
motor vehicle accident; and amending Rules 43 and 43.1, Alaska                                                                  
Rules of Administration."                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 0115                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
ANNE CARPENETI, Assistant Attorney General, Legal Services Section                                                              
- Juneau, Criminal Division, Department of Law, informed the                                                                    
committee that the problem that HB 367 addresses occurs maybe six                                                               
to eight times a year in Alaska.  She explained that perhaps a                                                                  
driver dozes and crosses the center line or accidentally slides                                                                 
through a stoplight and is in a traffic accident that results in                                                                
the death of a person.  The driving is not such that it would rise                                                              
to a culpable criminally negligent state; the person could not be                                                               
charged with criminally negligent homicide or any crime involving                                                               
the accident.  Currently, the person may be cited for crossing the                                                              
center line and the traffic offense; this is difficult for the                                                                  
family of the victim who was killed and not at fault in any way.                                                                
Ms. Carpeneti explained that the problem is that it cannot be                                                                   
proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the person drove with a                                                                   
culpable mental state that rises to criminal negligence, which is                                                               
the lowest culpable mental state for crimes in the state.                                                                       
Therefore, HB 367 was proposed.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MS. CARPENETI informed members that HB 367 provides that if a                                                                   
person cited for a moving traffic violation in connection with a                                                                
fatal accident is convicted beyond a reasonable doubt of the cited                                                              
offense, and if the court finds that the accident contributed to                                                                
the death of a person, then the person cited for the moving traffic                                                             
violation should have his/her driver's license revoked for one                                                                  
year.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Number 0250                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN informed the committee that 30 years or so                                                                 
ago, he was driving up about a two-mile grade in the center of                                                                  
three lanes.  In the far right lane there was a slow moving,                                                                    
improperly lit semi-truck.  Upon looking in the rearview mirror,                                                                
Representative  Green could see that there were two cars racing.                                                                
As those cars approached Representative Green's car, the car                                                                    
approaching in the far-left lane sped around him, while the car                                                                 
approaching from behind swerved so close that Representative Green                                                              
had to swerve and ended up hitting the aforementioned semi-truck in                                                             
the rear.  Upon impact, the tongue of the semi-truck went through                                                               
the windshield and hit the seat where the passenger would have                                                                  
been.  Indeed, he noted, he was supposed to have had a passenger.                                                               
Representative Green informed the committee that he was cited for                                                               
improper passing.  He asked if he would have been cited had the                                                                 
passenger been present and killed.  In response to Ms. Carpeneti,                                                               
Representative Green answered that he did not appeal the charge and                                                             
thus was convicted by default.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MS. CARPENETI pointed out that under HB 367, Representative Green                                                               
would have had the right to a jury trial.  With regard to whether                                                               
Representative Green would have been cited had the passenger been                                                               
present and killed, Ms. Carpeneti specified that it would depend                                                                
upon the circumstances.  She further specified that Representative                                                              
Green would have to have been convicted beyond a reasonable doubt                                                               
of the citation and the court would have to have found, by a                                                                    
preponderance of the evidence, that the violation for which                                                                     
Representative Green had been cited had contributed to the death of                                                             
the person.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN commented, "Wouldn't that all apply, though?                                                               
I mean, I have no witnesses."  He acknowledged that he himself was                                                              
a witness, but said, "I'm going to say that I didn't run into this                                                              
guy or that somebody forced me off [the road] and they're gone."                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MS. CARPENETI replied yes.  In response to whether that would do                                                                
any good, Ms. Carpeneti affirmed that.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN noted that his lawyer in that instance had                                                                 
advised him that it would not be worth his time [to fight the                                                                   
charge].                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS. CARPENETI responded that if this bill had been in effect, then                                                              
Representative Green's lawyer would have advised him to move                                                                    
forward to litigate the traffic citation.  She added that she would                                                             
have been surprised if Representative green would have been                                                                     
convicted under those circumstances because he was not at fault.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 0469                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES asked how Alaska's law compares with Oregon's                                                              
law regarding the basic speed rule.  She explained that [in Oregon]                                                             
if one has an accident that could be attributed to the person's not                                                             
watching or driving at an inappropriate speed, the person would be                                                              
guilty of violation of the basic speed law.  She indicated that the                                                             
basic speed law is all-inclusive.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MS. CARPENETI stated that she is not familiar with Oregon's basic                                                               
speed rule.  She did not believe that people in Alaska are cited                                                                
for basic speed [violations] unless an officer believes that a                                                                  
person was going faster than the conditions would warrant to be                                                                 
safe.  Furthermore, a person cannot be convicted unless a court                                                                 
makes that determination based on evidence presented beyond a                                                                   
reasonable doubt.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI turned attention to the limited license.                                                               
She asked:  If it can be established that a person's' ability to                                                                
earn a livelihood would be severely impaired without a limited                                                                  
license, are there standards regarding what constitutes severe                                                                  
impairment to one's livelihood?                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MS. CARPENETI answered that it is a fairly common procedure in                                                                  
which the court would make the determination.  Usually a severe                                                                 
impairment would arise when the person has no access to public                                                                  
transportation or if it is impractical to obtain a ride from                                                                    
someone.  She agreed with Representative Murkowski that it is a                                                                 
case-by-case determination.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Number 0653                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES asked whether losing a driver's license for                                                                
one year is punishment or an attempt to keep an unsafe driver off                                                               
the road.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS. CARPENETI said she believes the main purpose of this is to keep                                                             
an unsafe driver off the road, although part of the purpose is                                                                  
punishment.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES surmised, then, that this temporary license                                                                
does not keep this individual [an unsafe driver] off the road.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MS. CARPENETI clarified that the court has to make a determination                                                              
that the limited license will not endanger the public.  If that                                                                 
determination cannot be made, then the person is not granted a                                                                  
limited license.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA pointed out that limited licenses are often                                                             
limited to the time of day when the individual needs to drive to                                                                
work.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MS. CARPENETI agreed.  She specified that a limited license would                                                               
be for use during, say, 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to                                                                 
5:00 p.m.  Nor is a limited license automatically granted.  The                                                                 
individual must convince the judge that he or she would not                                                                     
endanger the public by driving during those limited hours.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN expressed concern regarding the courts'                                                                    
handling of DUIs [charges of driving under the influence].  He                                                                  
realizes that the court cannot bring the accusation, he said, but                                                               
he has observed cases in which people have lost their license.  In                                                              
three cases he observed that each time these individuals were                                                                   
brought up on DUI charges - and there were multiple times - these                                                               
individuals plea bargained down to a lesser offense.                                                                            
Representative Green stressed that these individuals are a menace                                                               
on the highway.  He asked if the same situation would occur under                                                               
this legislation.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MS. CARPENETI remarked that she would have to know the individual                                                               
facts of those cases.  She acknowledged that it is discouraging for                                                             
people to observe cases being plea bargained down, and she noted                                                                
that [the department] takes DUI charges very seriously.  Ms.                                                                    
Carpeneti stated that the purpose of this [bill] is to have                                                                     
significant consequences under these circumstances, and therefore                                                               
she would not say [that the same situation would occur under this                                                               
bill].                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN expressed his belief that a habitual drunk who                                                             
consistently beats the system is a menace.  He informed everyone                                                                
that the prosecuting attorney [of these aforementioned DUI cases]                                                               
had told him that he had too many cases and thus plea bargaining                                                                
was a much easier road.  He commented, "That was disgusting."                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS. CARPENETI agreed.  She pointed out that a person convicted of                                                               
a DWI/DUI can have his/her license taken under other statutory                                                                  
procedures.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Number 0957                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI posed a situation in which a commercial                                                                
truck driver, through whatever reason, has [had an accident] in                                                                 
which a death resulted.  She surmised that this statute would                                                                   
require the license of the commercial truck driver to be taken.  In                                                             
and of itself, the license being taken is substantial punishment in                                                             
that the person is losing the ability to earn a livelihood.  She                                                                
asked if this punishment, revocation of license for one year, is                                                                
taken into account and, perhaps, the jail time for manslaughter is                                                              
lessened.  She also asked if double jeopardy would exist.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS. CARPENETI pointed out that the purpose of HB 367 is to provide                                                              
consequences when a person cannot be charged with manslaughter or                                                               
any other crime in connection with the traffic accident.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI surmised, then, that two different forms                                                               
of punishment would not result.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MS. CARPENETI replied no.  This is for use in those cases in which                                                              
[the driving is not such that it rises to] a criminally culpable                                                                
mental state in the driving, but the person was careless.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 1106                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MARK CAMPBELL testified via teleconference from Palmer.  He noted                                                               
that Representative Ogan, his representative, had informed him of                                                               
HB 367.  Mr. Campbell related his experience with this issue in                                                                 
which his son was killed in a car accident six years ago.  Of the                                                               
six people in the car, two were killed and four were injured when                                                               
a seventeen-year-old was speeding, lost control of the vehicle and                                                              
entered the lane of oncoming traffic.  Within a week the young man                                                              
was driving a new truck.  Mr. Campbell saw this young man drive                                                                 
through an intersection without heeding the light, which was                                                                    
brought out in court.  In this situation, the maximum that the                                                                  
judge could charge was $50 per person injured, which resulted in a                                                              
$300 fine.  Therefore, Mr. Campbell had requested that the young                                                                
man work off that fine through community service rather than merely                                                             
pay the fine, which the judge granted.  However, a little over a                                                                
year later this young man was involved in a one car accident in                                                                 
which two other young lives were taken.  Perhaps, if more could                                                                 
have been done, this young man may have viewed his driving                                                                      
privilege differently.  Mr. Campbell felt that the system had                                                                   
failed.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. CAMPBELL turned to HB 367.  He commented that HB 367 seems to                                                               
leave room for the judge to allow the individual to work while                                                                  
placing beneficial limitations on the individual.  He clarified                                                                 
that [this would be appropriate] in a circumstance such as this.                                                                
In conclusion, Mr. Campbell stated that HB 367 is a good bill that                                                              
addresses the situation where a person acts unreasonably and yet is                                                             
not criminally negligent in the sense of intent.  He noted that                                                                 
parents who have lost children [in similar accidents] have                                                                      
contacted him and related the same experience with regard to the                                                                
individual not feeling the weight of his or her unreasonable                                                                    
actions.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 1384                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN inquired as to whether drugs and/or alcohol                                                                
were involved in either case involving this young man.  He further                                                              
inquired as to the disposition of this young man now.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. CAMPBELL said that in his son's case there were no drugs or                                                                 
alcohol involved.  In the second accident, there was beer in the                                                                
vehicle; however, he did not know whether there was an alcohol                                                                  
[test].  In further response to Representative Green, Mr. Campbell                                                              
informed the committee that this young man is driving now.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT asked if there was anyone else who wished to testify.                                                             
There being no one, public testimony was closed.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 1476                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI moved to report HB 367 out of committee                                                                
with individual recommendations and the accompanying three fiscal                                                               
notes.  There being no objection, it was so ordered and HB 367 was                                                              
reported from the House Judiciary Standing Committee.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                

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