Legislature(1997 - 1998)

03/25/1997 09:03 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
       SB 3  MINOR'S CURFEW VIOL. HEARD IN DIST. CT.                           
       COCHAIR  PEARCE, Sponsor,  testified on  behalf  of the                 
       bill.   Testimony was also heard from CAPT. TED BACHMAN                 
       and MARGOT KNUTH.  SENATOR ADAMS MOVED Amendment #1.  A                 
       vote was taken  and Amendment #1 FAILED by  a vote of 4                 
       to 2.  COCHAIR PEARCE MOVED CSSB 3(JUD)  from committee                 
       with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal                 
       notes.  Without objection, CSSB 3(JUD) was REPORTED OUT                 
       with  a  previous  fiscal note  from  the  Court System                 
       (24.3),  previous fiscal notes  from the Departments of                 
       Administration  (indeterminate)  and Health  and Social                 
       Services (indeterminate),  and a zero  fiscal note from                 
       the Department of Public Safety.                                        
  COCHAIR PEARCE,  Sponsor, brought up  a news item  in Juneau                 
  last fall, in which the Assembly  put a curfew aside because                 
  they found they had  no avenue to prosecute offenders.   She                 
  read the Sponsor Statement relating to  SB 3 (copy on file).                 
  Following is an excerpt of the first and last paragraphs:                    
            "Currently, juvenile offenses other  than traffic,                 
       tobacco,   fish  and   game,  parks   and  recreational                 
       facilities, or alcohol violations,  are handled through                 
       municipal courts where these exist,  or are not handled                 
       at  all because  of the  Division of  Family and  Youth                 
       Services caseload.                                                      
            SB  3  will  mandate  that  all  juvenile   curfew                 
       violations  be  handled  in  District  Court.    Alaska                 
       Delinquency Rules will not apply, and the minor accused                 
       of  the  offense  will  be  charged,   prosecuted,  and                 
       sentenced in the District Court  in the same manner  as                 
       an adult.   When  a  minor is  charged, prosecuted  and                 
       sentenced  for an  offense under  this subsection,  the                 
       minor's  parent, guardian,  or legal custodian  will be                 
       present at all proceedings."                                            
  COCHAIR PEARCE pointed  out the Judiciary CS was  before the                 
  committee.  She  stated there was  a "quilt of ability"  for                 
  juveniles to be handled in court  in the state.  Some judges                 
  take a more  active interest at  the juvenile level, one  of                 
  whom was Judge  Froehlich of Juneau,  who sets aside  Friday                 
  afternoons  for  juvenile  cases.    He  was  aggressive  in                 
  prosecuting violations of alcohol  and tobacco and  informed                 
  her that the  lion's share  of people he  has seen on  those                 
  charges would  also come before  him on a  curfew violation.                 
  Her intention was to give communities the tools they need to                 
  intervene in  children's problems before they  become large.                 
  If they can be stopped with a curfew violation, young people                 
  could be diverted from a life in the corrections system.                     
  COCHAIR PEARCE mentioned the Court System fiscal note of $24                 
  thousand, stating  they were  not sure  how many  cases they                 
  might see.  Anchorage  might choose to go with  an ordinance                 
  and start prosecuting  their curfews  at the district  court                 
  level rather than at the municipal level.                                    
  Section 2 was  a suggestion  from Anchorage Assemblyman  Joe                 
  Murdy  which would allow  the option  for community  work in                 
  place of fines.  The reason it was permissive was based on a                 
  recent  case  in which  the  judge  decided if  a  youth was                 
  sentenced to  community work,  it was  the sort  of sentence                 
  that should have a jury trial.   She wanted to make sure the                 
  cases didn't automatically  go to  a jury trial,  so it  was                 
  made permissive.  In some Anchorage cases the parents of the                 
  offender were unwilling  to pay the  fine.  She was  hopeful                 
  that  between  parental and  court  pressure they  could get                 
  young people to do community service to work off their fine.                 
  In response  to a  question from  SENATOR PHILLIPS,  COCHAIR                 
  PEARCE did  not recall receiving  a position paper  from the                 
  Anchorage  Municipality, but  did receive  one  from Juneau.                 
  She acknowledged the idea came from the assembly.                            
  SENATOR  ADAMS  brought  up  a  proposed amendment  for  the                 
  committee's consideration.  His understanding  was that SB 3                 
  mandates that  juvenile  curfew  violations  be  handled  in                 
  district courts and  the minor would be  charged, prosecuted                 
  and sentenced  in the  same manner  as an  adult.   It would                 
  shift the  burden  for municipal  violations from  municipal                 
  hearing  officers  to state  district  court.   The juvenile                 
  would  get a  criminal  record and  potential jail  time. He                 
  believed it  was a  municipal rather than  a state  problem.                 
  Criminal records should not  belong to a youth that  makes a                 
  mistake with curfew violations.   His proposal came from the                 
  Governor's   Youth   and   Justice  working   group   as   a                 
  recommendation.  He reiterated that curfew violations should                 
  be a civil rather than a criminal issue, a policy issue they                 
  must  decide at the table.  He wanted to keep the fines to a                 
  maximum of $250.                                                             
  COCHAIR PEARCE responded  to a question by  SENATOR PHILLIPS                 
  by  stating  that  SB  3  would  not  affect  the  Anchorage                 
  ordinance.    They could  choose to  change  it and  use the                 
  district court  system, but  they presently  have their  own                 
  system.  The main problem is in Juneau and other communities                 
  without  their  own court  system  and ability  to prosecute                 
  curfew offenders.   She acknowledged that the  Department of                 
  Health  and   Social  Services  approached  her   about  the                 
  amendment  proposed  by  SENATOR ADAMS.    She  believed the                 
  department did not have the manpower to handle all the young                 
  people and questioned the fiscal impact of the amendment.                    
  The presence of SENATOR PARNELL was noted.                                   
  SENATOR PHILLIPS questioned if  the legislation was assuming                 
  responsibility for local  government and adding more  to the                 
  state budget.   He also inquired  why it was different  from                 
  other  ordinances around  the state.    He then  agreed with                 
  SENATOR ADAMS' point  that it had a different attitude, that                 
  of a criminal record versus a fine.                                          
  COCHAIR   SHARP  called   for   testimony   from  those   on                 
  teleconference.  CAPT. TED  BACHMAN,  Alaska State  Trooper,                 
  deferred to Ms. Knuth, and asked to testify after her.                       
  MARGOT KNUTH, Assistant Attorney General, Department of Law,                 
  approached the committee.  She outlined two special projects                 
  she had been  working on this year.  One had  to do with the                 
  need  for more prison beds and the  other was trying to work                 
  on juvenile justice  issues and  keep facilities from  being                 
  filled up.  The governor recently sponsored a conference  on                 
  youth and justice and  asked a group of ninety  citizens and                 
  experts around the state  to look at the growing  problem of                 
  juvenile crime  and make  recommendations on  what could  be                 
  done both at  the local level and  the state level.   One of                 
  the most significant  findings was that  there was a gap  in                 
  the system between  doing almost nothing for  minor offenses                 
  and  "then landing  with  both feet"  on  juveniles who  are                 
  committing  the  most   serious  offenses.     A  need   for                 
  consistent,  swift   and  certain   consequences  has   been                 
  identified  for the  low level  offenses.  The  problem with                 
  utilizing the statewide DHSS system  is a growing population                 
  and decreasing budget, and  they have been unable to  do all                 
  and be all.  The department has had to focus their energy on                 
  the serious offenders because of finite resources.                           
  MS. KNUTH testified that there  were a number of communities                 
  who  have  identified their  juveniles  at risk  of becoming                 
  criminal  offenders  and they  wish  to do  something.   The                 
  desire to work with low level offenders was taking different                 
  forms throughout  the state depending  on the nature  of the                 
  community.  She briefly described the Anchorage Court system                 
  in which they  use a  hearing officer, similar  to a  judge.                 
  The juvenile is cited and required  to go before the hearing                 
  officer  and be held accountable.   In the small communities                 
  of Elim and Koyuk, they started a pilot project that enabled                 
  them to use a village court system, which was different than                 
  the hearing officer, but it focused on the same group of at-                 
  risk kids  and created  an authority  figure  who meted  out                 
  appropriate consequences for juveniles.                                      
  MS. KNUTH continued  by stating  the problem with  SB 3  was                 
  fairly typical of the way the state has  been trying to deal                 
  with those at risk  of becoming offenders, which was  to put                 
  it back  on the state.   It can  be appropriate, but  at the                 
  same time, a  community response  would be more  appropriate                 
  and more  likely to result in swift,  certain and consistent                 
  consequences.  She  felt there was  a need for systems  that                 
  could be utilized.  SENATOR  ADAMS' amendment would increase                 
  the tools that  could be used  by communities, which was  in                 
  the spirit of the need identified by COCHAIR PEARCE.                         
  MS.  KNUTH  described  the proposed  amendment.    First, it                 
  created a possibility of civil penalties instead of criminal                 
  penalties for  kids who  are not  criminals yet  but are  at                 
  risk.  Rather than use the criminal system for them, it made                 
  more sense to  use civil  penalties.  She  noted "We've  run                 
  into this  problem of if  the fine  is too big  or community                 
  work service is ordered, then it  is treated like a criminal                 
  case and there is the right to a jury trial."  The amendment                 
  reduces the fine from $1,000 to $250, which is something the                 
  Court of Appeals has  identified as the cut-off level  for a                 
  civil  penalty.   Section  2  would  require that  DHSS  was                 
  notified of  juveniles who  are racking  up civil  penalties                 
  because  they  are the  youth  at risk  of  becoming serious                 
  offenders and they  need some way  to make sure  there is  a                 
  whole profile so they cannot  escape.  A significant problem                 
  now  is  there  is  no  accountability or  documentation  to                 
  identify  those at  risk.   Section  3, the  civil penalties                 
  section, is what Anchorage is  currently utilizing and wants                 
  to  keep  using.   The  municipal  prosecutor  had expressed                 
  concern that his  workload would not allow  more cases which                 
  would happen  if  they prosecuted  in district  court.   The                 
  remaining sections of the amendment  allow the department to                 
  delegate to  communities the ability to respond to these low                 
  level offenses.  That  is what would create a  formal system                 
  for  the  Elim  and Koyuk  agreement,  the  Mat-Su diversion                 
  panel,  and some  other  systems used  statewide.   It would                 
  create a reporting mechanism so that DHSS doesn't lose track                 
  of  those  at risk  of  becoming  chronic  offenders.    She                 
  believed that state  government needed to be  doing less and                 
  communities were asking to be empowered  to do this work, so                 
  it  seemed appropriate  to create a  new response  level for                 
  kids at risk.                                                                
  CAPTAIN TED BACHMAN,  Alaska State  Trooper, testified  next                 
  via teleconference from Anchorage.  He added to  Ms. Knuth's                 
  comments  regarding  the  proposed amendment.    One  of his                 
  concerns  was  creating  another subset  of  people  who are                 
  prosecuted  in  adult  court.   He  reiterated  one  of  the                 
  findings  of the  governor's  conference  on juveniles  that                 
  spoke  against  creating  any  more  laws that  would  bring                 
  juveniles into adult court.  He supported the accountability                 
  the amendment would create at the  local level for the lower                 
  offenses.  It provides another avenue  that would help steer                 
  young people in the right direction.                                         
  SENATOR  ADAMS commented that he  offered the amendment as a                 
  proposal  to work  with the  sponsor.  He  felt it  was good                 
  legislation but  needed more  work, communities  need to  be                 
  involved,  and there  was  a  middle  ground that  could  be                 
  COCHAIR PEARCE  explained that  the Judiciary  Committee did                 
  look at the same  idea, which had  been offered by the  HESS                 
  Committee.  It was her feeling that a young person who faced                 
  a DHSS  procedure is  less likely  to have  an epiphany  and                 
  decide they didn't want to be in that situation again than a                 
  person who had to face a judge.                                              
  End SFC-97 # 69, Side 1                                                      
  Begin SFC-97 # 69, Side 2                                                    
  COCHAIR  PEARCE  continued with  a  discussion about  unpaid                 
  fines resulting in court contempt problems and incarceration                 
  in  a youth facility.   That was  the reason for  adding the                 
  option of community  service.   She questioned whether  DHSS                 
  could  handle the  workload that  would be  required by  the                 
  amendment.   After thinking  through the  proposal, she  saw                 
  there  were   two  directions  to  go,  and   she  was  more                 
  comfortable   with   the  Judiciary   CS   version  of   the                 
  SENATOR ADAMS MOVED Amendment #1.   COCHAIR PEARCE objected.                 
  A roll call vote was taken on  the MOTION to adopt Amendment                 
  IN FAVOR: Phillips, Adams                                                    
  OPPOSED:  Parnell, Torgerson, Pearce, Sharp                                  
  And so, the MOTION FAILED (2-4).                                             
  COCHAIR  PEARCE  MOVED  CSSB  3(JUD)  from  committee   with                 
  individual  recommendations  and accompanying  fiscal notes.                 
  Without  objection,  CSSB  3(JUD) was  REPORTED  OUT  with a                 
  previous fiscal note from the  Court System (24.3), previous                 
  fiscal   notes  from   the  Departments   of  Administration                 
  (indeterminate)    and    Health    and   Social    Services                 
  (indeterminate), and a zero fiscal  note from the Department                 
  of Public Safety.                                                            

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