Legislature(1997 - 1998)
02/21/1997 09:03 AM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 3 MINOR'S CURFEW VIOL. HEARD IN DIST. CT. CHAIRMAN WILKEN called the Senate Health, Education and Social Services (HESS) Committee to order at 9:03 a.m. and announced SB 3 to be up for consideration. SENATOR PEARCE, sponsor of SB 3, said her office became aware this fall of a problem in Juneau when plans for a youth curfew were set aside because the Borough had no avenue to prosecute offenders. This bill seeks to relieve municipalities from the burden of prosecution and hopefully allow for more effective and expeditious handling of these offenses. She said there is an interest in Anchorage in having the same sort of relief. SENATOR PEARCE said currently, juvenile offenses other than traffic, tobacco, fish and game, parks and recreational facilities, or alcohol violations, are handled through municipal courts where they exist, or are not handled at all because of the Division of Family and Youth Services caseload. SB 3 would put a uniform approach in place to handle curfew violations. It will enable those communities who so wish to put a curfew ordinance into effect, with the ability to prosecute. It 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. She said there are letters of support from the City and Borough of Juneau Mayor Dennis Eagan, the Mayor's Task Force on Youth in Juneau, and the Alaska Peace Officers Association. The Municipality of Anchorage is very interested and have some suggestions along these lines. She noted the Troopers have a $0 fiscal note, the Court System has a $24,000 fiscal note, and the other fiscal notes are all $0. Anchorage Assemblyman Joe Murdy said he believes they should authorize community work as one of the penalties for violating the curfew. He thought the child might learn from that community service and also because there are some families who will not pay the fine. Number 102 SENATOR WARD asked if the courts cannot already give community service. SENATOR PEARCE thought Juneau found it could not even prosecute the cases, but SB 3 would allow them to do so. SENATOR GREEN asked how many cities presently have their own court. Mat-Su does not have a local court and so this would not apply to them. SENATOR PEARCE believed that was correct. SENATOR LEMAN liked the concept, but noted that it requires action to a minor the same as for an adult. He said the Governor vetoed his car theft bill that was similar because it would be too tough on juveniles. Is there any assurance that the Governor would find a curfew violation so significant that he would want to prosecute juveniles in an adult court? SENATOR PEARCE said she had not sought such an assurance. She thought the Legislature should go forward with the idea, however. Number 168 CHRIS CHRISTENSEN , Staff Counsel, Alaska Court System, said the idea of curfew violations for juveniles is a popular one. Anchorage adopted a municipal ordinance making curfew violations a civil offense rather than a criminal one a little over a year ago. During the first 12 months of Anchorage's system about 1,500 curfew citations to juveniles were issued and a total of 2,000 over the first full year in operation is expected. Since this is a civil system Anchorage uses a municipal hearing officer to hear the cases. The juveniles have the right to appeal the decision, but thus far there has been only one appeal. Currently the Anchorage system is not having any impact at all on the court system. Mr. Christensen anticipated that the major municipalities will enact curfew ordinances as a way of dealing with an increase in juvenile crime and gang activity. SB 3 would allow municipalities to adopt criminal ordinances for which the penalty can be jail time, mandatory community service, or loss of a valuable license. Such ordinances would require the state to provide a jury trial. In addition, SB 3 would allow municipalities to require mandatory court appearances by juveniles. All citations which are contested will come before the court system, unless the municipality decides to pay for its own municipal hearing officer. Based upon statistics generated during the first year of Anchorage's civil curfew system, the Court System fiscal note assumes 3,000 citations per year would be generated statewide. Noncontested citations may be applied directly to the municipalities; however, defendants may contest citations or enter guilty pleas at court. Thus, many persons subject to this section will come before a district judge and/or pay citations through the court's accounting system. This note assumes that no municipality will require a mandatory court appearance(probably an incorrect assumption), and that one-third of juvenile citations will be run through the court system; this is the rate at which the courts deal with other municipal citations. It should be kept in mind that the rate at which juveniles contest citations will depend on the size of fines set by the municipalities in their ordinances. The note assumes that no municipality will criminalize curfew violations and will not require six-person jury trials. This last assumption is probably optimistic, in that some municipalities will likely criminalize repeat offenders or offenses by business owners who allow minors to remain on-premises after curfew, if only to impose community service on the offenders. SENATOR PEARCE said the intent was to give communities tools to deal with juvenile crime. She understood that there are cost implications, but hoped SB 3 would save money in the long run. MR. CHRISTENSEN said statistics show that keeping kids off the streets effectively cuts down on crime. Number 335 MS. MARGOT KNUTH, Assistant Attorney General, said this year one of her principle functions is representing the Governor's Children's Cabinet on legislation that relates to youth and justice. This last year she worked with the Governor's Conference on Youth and Justice, acknowledging Senator Green's participation, and said she ended up being the reporter for the Conference which produced two reports. The Conference was a bi-partisan effort to address juvenile crime. There is a sense in Alaska that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. The Conference focused on three courses of action: prevention, intervention, and prosecution. One item they heard most from communities was that Alaska is responding only to the serious juvenile offenders and there have been no swift appropriate consequences for low-level offenders. It makes sense that limited resources would be applied to only the most serious cases. However, there is a whole population receiving no punishment which creates a sense that nobody is watching, that it does not matter, and that leads to the possibility of the escalation of offenses. The major message from the Conference was that it is appropriate for the state to delegate to communities the ability to respond, in particular, to the low-level offenses. SB 3 attempts to address "at risk" kids, not serious offenders. Ms. Knuth offered a conceptual amendment to the effect that DHSS be able to delegate to communities the ability to respond to low-level offenses. She said this concept is embodied in SB 69. Ms. Knuth said it makes a great deal of sense to let communities take action that seems appropriate and to not necessarily specify what the community should do because they favor different approaches. Number 392 SENATOR GREEN commented that Ms. Knuth said just the opposite of what the bill does which is sending the issue to the state. MS. KNUTH responded that this bill does send it to the court system and that is part of the problem rather than the solution. Mr. Christensen testified and DHSS will testify that they are over- burdened in most areas already. There are children who are already being sent to detention for tobacco violations and other minor offenses which creates a problem in terms of very limited space and the need for that space to be used by the more serious offenders. Ms. Knuth said the conceptual amendment would be a diversionary system from court intervention. She thought the court system needed to be used and reserved for prosecuting criminals. At-risk youth need to have a tool in the state system allowing communities to address the youth in an intervention setting. Number 410 SENATOR WARD asked what would be the biggest deterrent, intervention or treating it as a crime. MS. KNUTH said there is a deterrent effect to criminalizing behavior, but in terms of effectively responding to a child's particular circumstances, intervention is a lot more effective in the long-run. Nation-wide criminal laws are effective only when the perpetrator believes they will be caught and there will be sanctions. Simply having a law on the books does not do anything. That is what the idea of community empowerment is getting to. When the state is in control there has not been enforcement nor consequences. If communities are allowed to respond, a level of commitment will result in a much higher percentage of responses. This is what the communities want. Number 437 SENATOR PEARCE said she could see empowering local communities for intervention, if they need statutory authority to do that. However, that might not get to the whole problem and perhaps, a two tier system might work. A community would have the authority to intervene with maybe a first curfew offense. If there is a second offense, the community would have the ability to go to a prosecution at the state level. Taken together this might be an even greater deterrent. SENATOR WARD asked how many juveniles had been incarcerated for th possession of tobacco. MS. KNUTH deferred to someone from HESS to answer that. SENATOR PEARCE said she had spoken with Judge Froehlich in Juneau who estimated that in Juneau District Court about 75% of the youth who are curfew violators are also violators of the alcohol and tobacco subsection. Judge Froehlich did not think there would be the pyramid effect because many of the children are the same. Number 479 MR. ELMER LINDSTROM , Department of Health and Social Services, said that SB 3 would add curfew violations to those offenses placed under the authority of the District Court. This creates a possible concern that violators who fail to appear in court under a citation may be subject to detention for failure to appear, or contempt of court, or non-compliance with a sentence order. Mr. Lindstrom said in the calendar year of 1996 there were 68 instances where youth were detained in a youth facility for minor consuming or a tobacco offense. The most significant impact has occurred here in Juneau at the Johnson Youth Center where approximately 14% of its total admissions were related to minor consuming and tobacco cases. The detention staff in each facility assumes the responsibility of transporting the youth to court, maintaining supervision during the court proceedings, and processing discharges if the youth is released. Although the statute places authority for these cases outside the department, by default, the department's detention resources are used to facilitate the judicial process for these youth. In calendar year 1996, Anchorage police issued over 1,000 curfew citations under municipal ordinance which took effect in January 1996. At present these cases are processed as a civil matter through an administrative hearing officer. Transferring these cases to the district court could have a significant impact on the department's detention resources. Mr. Lindstrom explained that an undetermined fiscal note was submitted because it is difficult to estimate what will happen within different municipalities. The department does not know which ones will put in place a new curfew ordinance, to what extent local police departments will enforce the curfew and the behavior of individual district court judges. As a cautionary note, there may well be an impact on our already over-crowded detention facilities. He supported Ms. Knuth's testimony and her comments on the Governor's Conference on Youth and Justice. SENATOR WARD asked about the youths who were recently fined $50 here in Juneau for smoking; was it a state or local fine. MR. LINDSTROM said that the youths probably received citations issued by the local police department and the fine would be paid to the City and Borough of Juneau. If the fine is not paid, the youth will have a court appearance; and if the youth fails to appear, the youth may well be cited for contempt. At that point the youth would become a resident of our youth facility for a period of time. SENATOR WARD noted that it had a chilling affect on two kids he knows. He asked if there were figures for the number of minors who were charged with possession of tobacco in Alaska. MR. LINDSTROM did not have the number with him, but repeated that in 1996 there were 68 detention admissions related to minor consuming or possession of tobacco. SENATOR WARD said it appeared to him that Juneau, by far, is enforcing the $50 fine. He suggested that fines reduced the numbers of those at risk for smoking and the same theory would likely work for a curfew on a statewide basis. MR. LINDSTROM agreed that Juneau has been very aggressive in the last year and certainly Judge Froehlich has been very aggressive in dealing with the tobacco use issue. However, the method of dealing with these issues has some impacts and one is that it now represents 14% of admissions in the Johnson's Youth Center. The Governor's Conference suggests there may be other ways to have an impact that will not have those consequences on our detention facilities. SENATOR PEARCE asked what acts actually put them in the Johnson Youth Center. MR. LINDSTROM replied that the youth probably did not pay the fine or did not appear in court and were found in contempt of court. SENATOR PEARCE asked what power the Conference recommended to delegate to local authorities that would have more impact. If youth are already ignoring fines or not showing up in courts, being softer on them would not do much good. SENATOR GREEN said this was addressed last year in a bill that pertained to issuing citations to youth for smoking. Then it was said to be too much trouble and the "kids on the street" were more of a problem. SENATOR PEARCE asked if citations are not used, how do 14% of Johnson's admissions come from these youth. SENATOR GREEN assumed that happened since the hearings last year. MS. KNUTH explained that Juneau is an anomaly in the State and Judge Froehlich is on a one person crusade for juvenile tobacco and alcohol offenders. He is exceptional in the diligence with which he is pursuing these kids and there is no one else who is throwing children into detention for tobacco violations. She said there is the question of whether you can put these children into detention without offering them a jury trial on the contempt proceedings. She did not know whether his responsiveness would be able to continue necessarily. MS. KNUTH said that when the sanction is available at the court level, it is very effective. The problem is that it is not being used for most offenders and therefore there is no impact on the behavior in the manner desired. So the concept of community intervention is that a much higher percentage of the violators would be held accountable in order to impact the behavior. She agreed with the need for a stair-step approach to be available. Community work service was raised as an available sanction for this, but Ms. Carpeneti in the Criminal Division, said that currently in Alaska, if community work service can be ordered, the penalty is sufficient to have the right to a jury trial. Number 538 MS. ANNE CARPENETI, Assistant Attorney General, said that last year the zero tolerance for children drinking and driving had alternative penalties. The Booth decision holds that the possibility of community work service did give rise to the right to a jury trial and court appointed counsel. MR. CHRISTENSEN commented that there are two kinds of work service. One is when you give someone a fine with the option of doing work service instead of the fine. What is talked about here is an actual order to do the work. In the eyes of the law ordering someone to work, essentially involuntary servitude, is considered the legal equivalent of putting them in jail. SENATOR LEMAN wondered if that was consistent with the constitutional change made in 1994 when restitution was put in place as one of the five conditions for corresponding to victims' rights. Community work service could be used in the same vein to pay back society. MS. CARPENETI did not think that issue had been raised in the Booth case. She assumed that would be different from restitution, because that is paying back an individual rather than doing work for the good of the community. SENATOR LEMAN thought restitution could be in different forms other than money. CHAIRMAN WILKEN indicated the need to act on the amendment before the committee. If action on the Health and Social Service component is desired, that could be considered in Judiciary. Number 500 CAPTAIN TED BACHMAN , Alaska State Troopers, said he was available to answer questions. MR. BLAIR MCCUNE, Deputy Director, Alaska Public Defenders, identified municipal prosecutions as one of the impacts on the agency which he expected to be minimal. In most areas, municipalities contract with private attorneys who represent children or adults. If the prosecution is in Superior Court for a juvenile delinquency action, he would represent the child even if a municipal ordinance is at issue. Currently, the curfew violations in Anchorage are handled as civil penalties and as Ms. Knuth and Ms. Carpeneti mentioned, it is difficult to say just what civil penalties are. Number 478 SENATOR WARD moved to pass SB 3 from committee. SENATOR LEMAN objected. Senator Leman wanted to include with a note to the Judiciary Committee to consider the issues discussed today. He, then, removed his objection. There were no further objections and is was so ordered.