Legislature(1997 - 1998)
03/24/1997 09:03 AM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 132 CRIMINAL JUSTICE INFO, INCL. SEX OFFENDER CHAIRMAN WILKEN announced SB 132 to be up for consideration. ANNE CARPENETI, Department of Law, explained that this bill has two parts dealing with criminal background information. The first part amends AS 12.62 which is the criminal justice information systems and the security statutes in two general ways; first by clarifying procedures for a person to get background information held by the FBI. Secondly, it eliminates the historical time limitation on prior convictions and the ability to obtain information on prior convictions for State records. Ms. Carpeneti said the second part of the bill brings the state in compliance with the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act. In order to stay eligible for 100 percent funding from the Burn formula funding grants the legislation is necessary. It requires the state to adopt a two-tier sex offender registration program - one for certain offenses against children and sexually violent crimes and requires registration for at least 10 years. The other second part of the Wetterling Act provides more stringent registration requirements for sexually violent predators. Ms. Carpeneti informed the committee that Alaska already has a two-step sex offender registration procedure. The first is for 15-years for first time sex offenders and the second requires recidivist sex offenders to register for life. Ms. Carpeneti explained that the Wetterling Act requires the state to appoint panels of experts in behavior and the treatment of sex offenders which would examine a person who has been convicted of a sex offense and make a recommendation to the sentencing court whether or not that person should be classified as a sexually violent predator. If a person is classified as a sexually violent predator, he or she would remain there until the board examined the person at a later date and made the recommendation that the person is no longer sexually violent. The recommendation would have to go back to the original sentencing court and the court would make the determination if that person has ceased to be a sexually violent predator. Ms. Carpeneti said there are several problems with that approach. The cost of establishing a statewide board of experts would be significant and the second and more significant cost would be to litigate whether or not the individual is a sexually violent predator and remains one. The potential for litigation is for the life of the person. For these reasons, the department has been working with the federal government on an alternate approach which the department expects will be accepted. The legislation proposes in addition to the life-time registration of recidivist offenders, to add to that category persons who are convicted for the first time of the most serious sexual offenses, sexual assault in the first degree (an unclassified felony) and sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree (also an unclassified felony). Ms. Carpeneti said the Wetterling Act also requires verification of the addresses of sexually violent predators through registration every 90 days. SENATOR WARD asked for a copy of the Wetterling Act for all committee members and asked if the state is receiving the grant money now. ANNE CARPENETI replied yes. SENATOR WARD asked if there is a document saying that our laws are out of compliance and the state will not receive it this year. Senator Ward requested a copy of that also. ANNE CARPENETI noted that the department has had communications with the Department of Justice setting forth the requirements of what the state must do. At this point, the department knows that the state is not in compliance. The federal government has not formally said that the federal money will be cut off. SENATOR WARD asked her to get a letter stating that to the committee. ANNE CARPENETI replied that she would do her best. SENATOR GREEN asked if there was a timing sequence that other things might happen at the federal level. TAPE 97-33, SIDE B Number 580 SENATOR GREEN said that might make it easier for the state to comport to what they have done afterwards. ANNE CARPENETI replied that two other pieces of law have been passed since the Wetterling Act. One is Megan's Law which addresses notification of the location of sex offenders and that is addressed in this bill by allowing the Department of Public Safety to adopt regulations addressing notification. The second is a bill requiring some time in the future the FBI to establish a tracking system of sex offenders. That is provided in this bill by requiring the Department of Public Safety to notify the State and FBI whenever a sex offender moves out of State and notify the state they are moving to. Ms. Carpeneti explained that other states are trying to find creative alternatives for the board of experts, but some of the provisions of the Wetterling Act can't be changed. The state has adopted guidelines, which she will provide the committee, which gives them a lot more freedom in certain areas. SENATOR GREEN did not think the current sex offender registration system in Alaska went far enough. ANNE CARPENETI pointed out that Alaska is more stringent than federal statutes, in that first offenses must register for 15 years. The Wetterling Act starts with 10 years as a floor rather than a ceiling. Alaska also has the life-time registration for recidivists which is more serious that federal requirements. SENATOR GREEN was concerned that the state would be pulling people into the system who have only been charged, but not convicted. Number 556 ANNE CARPENETI thought that was a reading mistake because you only have to register after conviction. SENATOR GREEN asked her to explain page 2, section 4. ANNE CARPENETI explained that section addresses the criminal justice information security system which is different than the Wetterling Act. CHAIRMAN WILKEN asked what was challenged in court and then came back in State law over the last couple of years. ANNE CARPENETI replied that the ex-post facto issue, which means adopting a punishment that was not in affect when the act was committed was challenged. She found that no state or federal court has upheld the challenge based and our case in Alaska has been dismissed. CHAIRMAN WILKEN said that SB 132 would be held for further discussion and adjourned the meeting at 9:56 a.m.