Legislature(1997 - 1998)

02/21/1997 09:03 AM HES

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.                       
    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                     
 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.                                                            

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