Legislature(1997 - 1998)
03/26/1997 01:10 PM TRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 98 - DRIVERS LICENSES & DRUG & ALCOHOL PROGRAM Number 1368 CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS announced that the committee would take up HB 98, "An Act relating to the issuance, suspension, limitation, revocation, and reinstatement of drivers' licenses, permits, or privileges to drive concerning alcohol-related offenses; relating to the fees charged for the reinstatement of drivers' licenses, to alcohol information courses for drivers, and to youth assessment and referral programs for minor drivers." Number 1398 MARGOT KNUTH, Assistant Attorney General, Central Office, Criminal Division, Department of Law, Representing the Governor's Children's Cabinet, stated that point of this bill is to address a gap in our current system. We have a gap in the current system in that we have an adult alcohol safety program for adults who commit alcohol related offenses. Under the Alcohol Safety Action Program they are required to be screened to determine the level of their alcohol problem and then required to comply with the recommendations from that screening. This could entail education to inpatient treatment. The gap is that there is no similar mechanism for juveniles, we recently adopted this "use it and lose it" provision, where juveniles who are found to be minors in possession or consuming alcohol can lose their privilege to drive and may not be reinstated until they received counselling. She stated that there is no screening mechanism process for that. That is what this bill does, and it is especially important because the juvenile population is easier to reach and turn around then the adult population. She stated that it is a shame to focus attention on those who are in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s and miss out on an opportunity to work with those who are under 18. The way that this bill accomplishes this Junior Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP), is by requiring that the alcohol education and rehab programs be approved under the AS 47.037. This is where the Department of Health and Social Services would be involved in establishing what the appropriate program would be and working with providers, through contracts in local areas for the screening and the treatment. She stated that the heart of the bill is the amendments to AS 28.015 that will require completion of an alcohol information course approved by the department. She stated that the funding for this is addressed by raising the reinstatement fee for both juveniles and adults, whose licenses have been revoked. She stated that to a certain extent this is placing an additional burden on the adult population in that it will specifically benefit the juveniles but at the same time, that is a population that is already engaged in some criminal conduct that has resulted in the revocation of their drivers license. She stated that the $250 reinstatement fee is not unreasonable for them to pay, it puts the burden on the trouble makers rather than on the general public. Number 1621 REPRESENTATIVE COWDERY stated that he agreed with $250 being paid as a reinstatement fee. He asked what other penalties or sanctions are involved with minors. Number 1645 MS. KNUTH replied that there is a long list of possible penalties depending on the circumstances. If the child was found to be driving while intoxicated there would be the panoply of fines, detention and a juvenile jail stay. She stated that it is only a fine for a minor consuming alcohol and there is a Senate bill pending which would make a second offense a crime with the possibility of incarceration. She stated that minor consumption of alcohol is a common offense and there needs to be a balance between catching the attention of youthful offenders versus having multiple prosecutions. It has been a class A misdemeanor, now it is violation, and there is talk about making it a class B misdemeanor. She stated that there is also a zero tolerance provision for juveniles, if when driving they are shown to have any alcohol, they lose their license pay a fine and have community work service. Number 1740 REPRESENTATIVE COWDERY stated that if there is a twelve-year-old or a fourteen-year-old that is driving, they do not even have a license, the burden is then put back to the parents. He asked in the extreme situation what kind of penalty in our existing laws could be imposed besides, the monetary penalty. Number 1768 MS. KNUTH replied that alcohol related offenses for that age group, requires action to identify the problem that the child has and what is needed is treatment and intervention, preferably inpatient treatment for the child that is on their multiple offense. The way to accomplish this is to have a criminal prosecution that is held in abeyance, in lieu of treatment. She stated that there is some of this but not as much as she would like, part of the reason for that, is that we do not have the inpatient treatment beds available everywhere in the state. She stated that a criminal prosecution, does not do much to solve the problem of the very young alcohol plagued person because by just going to detention, only teaches them that they know how to survive the detention process and it alienates them from the rest of their school mates and the system that we want to bring them back to. Number 1837 CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS asked would the proposed increase license reissue fee from $100 to $250 apply to everyone who lost their license, for whatever reason. Number 1850 MS. KNUTH replied that it is for the adult offenders, not for the youthful offenders. For the youthful offenders it must be "a use it and lose it" alcohol or drug related offense but if they lost it for points, as with negligent driving or something like that they would still be in the $100 reinstatement fee for those license matters. Number 1871 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON stated that he was assuming that the fiscal notes where drawn up showing the impact on the department and the anticipated revenues. He would be curious as to the effect of the judges ruling on the case where two teen girls were picked up with a six-pack and there licenses were revoked under the "use it and lose it" provision and the judge said that it was not allowed. He stated that he would be interested in the status of that court case and how that would affect revenues and how that would impact the department. Number 1904 MS. KNUTH stated that her understanding is that there could not be a loss of license as a result of a criminal violation where there is no right to a jury trial or representation of consul. She stated that it did not impact the ability to administratively revoke the license because in the administrative revocation procedure there is an evidenticiary hearing and an opportunity for the person to present their case and have their day in court, albeit administrative court. She stated that is were the bulk of the "use it and lose it" revocations were occurring anyway and it is anticipated that there will not be a negative impact there. She stated that there is one trial court ruling that also did not like the administrative "use it and lose it" provision, because they did not think there was a sufficient nexus between an alcohol related offense and the penalty of revoking a drivers license. She stated that is against the weight of the authority in Alaska and against the weight of authority in the United States and it is on appeal. She stated that we expect a reversal in that case. Number 1966 REPRESENTATIVE COWDERY stated, "It seems to me that as I have brought up earlier, that $250 or dollars or whatever there ought to be some way while these juveniles are doing this that we really get their attention before they become adults and adult crimes and this and that, that is why I question more than just the monetary. You know we got kids wearing $200 reeboks to school and this and that and things of that nature so that is what I was hoping and I know that is not a simple solution but sometimes I believe that our kids and I got kids and grand-kids and great-grand kids and I think that sometimes that best thing that we can do to them is at a very early age let them understand that there are certain rules." Number 2007 MS. KNUTH stated that another one of the initiatives to come out of the conference on youth and justice is the idea of the community courts. Youth courts, in rural areas have some type of intervention system in place for low level offenders that would be swift, consistent and have appropriate consequences. It is an area in our system, of dealing with juvenile offenders were we have pretty much fallen down on the job because the Department of Health and Social Services, is strapped financially. They have to focus on the serious offenses, therefore, a whole group of low level offenders are skating on everything because there isn't the accountability factor and they are getting the idea that this is okay, nobody cares, nobody is watching. She stated that in the hearing officers system in Anchorage and in certain villages, there is not the ability to create a criminal record for the child or to put them in detention but they can issue fines and require community work service, letters of apology, and there is a confrontation with an authority figure who says what you have done is inappropriate and we are monitoring you. She stated that there has to be accountability as part of the big picture because the $250 fine may not capture some one's attention if money is not a problem, although it would have an disproportionate impact on someone with very little money. Number 2095 REPRESENTATIVE COWDERY stated that children should be made aware at a very early age that there are laws that have to be abided by. Number 2141 REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON asked if at the present time do the laws provide for the assignment of community work service. Number 2152 MS. KNUTH replied that they do depending on circumstances. For a court to order a community work service it has to be a misdemeanor offense which gives the offender the right to the jury trial and the right to public counsel, which was a recent appellate court ruling. She stated that there could be a fine up to $250 without the jury trial or right to counsel and the court can always create the option for the offender to convert that into community work service. REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON asked that this is in lieu of payment. MS. KNUTH replied right. Number 2182 REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON stated that back in his early legislative days he had fashioned a bill to use community work service, he initiated the first "use it and lose it" bill in the state of Alaska. He stated that if we have legal approval than liability does not become much of an issue, it seems that community work service, in addition to fines and withholdings of the licenses, it is a pretty stout effort to grab the attention of the young people who insist that they are going to drink and drive. He asked if we could assign community work service to underage kids or does that depend on each community. Number 2224 MS. KNUTH replied that we could not have an administrative requirement or authority to penalize a person through a community work service because of this court ruling that says that it is essentially involuntary servitude. She stated that it is an option in youth courts because the mechanism in those cases is that the kid could go through delinquency proceedings where the state files a petition for delinquency adjudication and that can result in detention. She stated that is the model that we had for dealing with juveniles since the beginning of time. These community sanctions are voluntarily agreed to by the youthful offender as an alternative. Number 2278 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON asked if we were creating a problem with unequal application of the law if we charge an adult $100 to get the license back and a juvenile $250 for something that may not have been driving related. Number 2296 MS. KNUTH stated that this bill charges $250 for reinstatement of any driver's license for the adult offenders. Number 2321 LOREN JONES, Director, Central Office, Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Department of Health and Social Services, with the approval of the bill, the division hopes to transfer to the Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, from the Division of Motor Vehicles, the approval of alcohol information schools. Currently they are approved under the Division of Motor Vehicles, they are eight hour classes, four of which must be related to driving, four related to alcohol. He stated that minors need more than four hours, all the classes are geared to adult offenders and are not age appropriate for minors. This would allow us to set an age appropriate curriculum, setting a full eight hours to the alcohol class, with the driving hours added in. He stated that in addition to the fine, we would require them to complete and pass tests to show that they have gained the knowledge that we have wanted them to acquire. This would also give the authority to monitor there compliance, if an offender does not attend the classes, the division could go back to the court so that the court could retake up the matter. This is not happening currently. The offense was moved to a violation from a misdemeanor, the Division of Family and Youth Services does not follow violations as they would a misdemeanor for a minor. The district court judge does not have the ability, on his own, to follow these individuals to make sure that they are doing it. He stated that as part of the other screening and sanctions some of the communities that have tried to address this independently, have used community work service as a voluntary thing. If a person comes into their program and is screened they say that the offender needs to do something for the community as part of dealing with the problem. All of these things would be added on top of the criminal sanctions, the fine, the reinstatement fee and the loss of the drivers license. He stated that this is an added portion to those penalties that would increase the ability to get a message across to the kids that it is not acceptable, consumption of alcohol is prohibited by law until the age of 21 and shows zero tolerance for driving and minor consumption and possession of alcohol. He stated that the "use it and lose it" provision has been in effect for a full two years and the number of administrative revocations of licenses goes up in the summer and we would focus our efforts on the communities that have the highest arrests. He stated that these communities are Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Ketchikan, the Kenai Peninsula and the Matsu Valley. He stated that the division's prime interest and the principle outcome is reflected in these charts that compare, the number of offenders, the first year who had a second offense and a third offense, in the second year was greatly reduced. TAPE 97-18, SIDE B Number 001 MR. JONES stated that hopefully the first time offenders will start to decrease as well. He stated, "In the first couple of years it went from 2,800 the first year, almost an 1,100 increase to 3,900 the second year who actually did lose their driver's license because of minor consuming or minor possession." He stated that responsibility as a division is to give offenders the age appropriate education, to screen them, get them into treatment if that is appropriate, to re-enforce the sanctions by the court and make sure the youth comply. He stated the ultimate goal is to decrease the number who lose their license and decrease the number who repeat that offense. Number 034 REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON asked what do you do to educate kids in the schools, is there any anti-drug and alcohol program, to modify the behavior before they reach the point of being an offender. Number 047 MR. JONES stated that between the programs that we provide through the grant and aid process and through programs that the Department of Education provides through the Drug Free Schools and Safe Communities Act and money that is in the schools districts and in the health curriculum, we try to get the message out. He stated that "Heres Looking at You" and other kinds of curriculums are in the schools, their officers are in the school, the information is there. He stated that representatives from around the state reported that the information was available in the high schools and the middle schools. He stated that it is part of the Department of Motor Vehicle's manual and test, the information is out there. He stated that as one kid reported to the division that some kids just don't want to listen, but we try to encourage them and we are trying to get their attention. Number 104 REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON stated that he thinks that this is a critical area, and educating the young people before they get to the point where they make these decisions. He stated that this is an area that he hopes will be looked at over the next five years. Education in the schools combined with joint communications with the families, so that the families can reinforce the training. Number 152 MR. JONES stated that through the Youth and Justice Conference there has been a lot of discussion about what is wrong and who are these kids that we are having all these troubles with but it also showed that there are a lot of kids out there that are doing it right. He stated that there are 70,000 kids out there, that are not losing there license. He stated that a lot of what the division is doing has had an impact on these kids and we just have to go the extra mile for a few. Number 190 CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS stated this bill will be held over to a future meeting.