Legislature(2001 - 2002)

04/24/2002 01:44 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
        HB 405-CRIMES ON OR AGAINST STATE VESSELS/PLANES                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  TAYLOR   informed  members  that  he   had  a  committee                                                              
substitute prepared as well as a  concurrent resolution to address                                                              
the title change.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR DONLEY  asked Representative Meyer  if he approves  of the                                                              
committee substitute.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MEYER said he does.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR DONLEY  moved to  adopt Version  C (Luckhaupt 4/16/02)  as                                                              
the Senate Judiciary committee substitute to HB 405.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR  announced that without  objection, Version  C was                                                              
before the committee.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  MEYER, sponsor  of HB 405,  informed members  that                                                              
the only  change made  to Version C  is that state-owned  aircraft                                                              
was added. He  explained that HB 405 gives the  state jurisdiction                                                              
over state-owned  watercraft and aircraft traveling  outside state                                                              
waters. He introduced this legislation  because recently an Alaska                                                              
Superior Court  judge dismissed a  prosecution for  sexual assault                                                              
that  occurred  on a  state-owned  ferry  in Canadian  waters.  He                                                              
stated:                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     Last  year a  young woman,  16 years  old, was  sexually                                                                   
     assaulted when  she was on the Alaska  ferry, Matanuska,                                                                   
     en route  from Seattle  to Ketchikan.  The ferry was  in                                                                   
     Canadian  waters  at  the  time   of  the  assault.  The                                                                   
     district  attorney in  Ketchikan presented  the case  to                                                                   
     the Grand  Jury there,  and the  Grand Jury returned  an                                                                   
     indictment for one count of  sexual assault in the first                                                                   
     degree  and one count  of sexual  assault in the  second                                                                   
     degree,   and  four  counts   of  misdemeanor   assault.                                                                   
     Unfortunately  the   court  found  that  there   was  no                                                                   
     statutory   authority  for  the   State  of  Alaska   to                                                                   
     prosecute  the  crime, even  though  the victim  was  an                                                                   
     Alaskan  and  it  happened on  an  Alaskan  owned  state                                                                   
     ferry.  Under federal  maritime law,  the United  States                                                                   
     government  has jurisdiction over  crimes that  occur on                                                                   
     U.S.  vessels in Canadian  waters but  the dismissal  by                                                                   
     the  state court  is  of concern  because  the crime  is                                                                   
     unlikely to be prosecuted by  the federal government and                                                                   
     certainly  not by the  Canadian government. The  federal                                                                   
     government doesn't  usually pursue smaller  crimes, even                                                                   
     though sexual  assault is not a smaller crimes,  and the                                                                   
     Canadian   government  has   very  little  interest   in                                                                   
     pursuing  a  crime that  occurred  on the  Alaska  owned                                                                   
     ferry  system to  a  U.S. citizen.  So,  I believe  it's                                                                   
     prudent that  we pass this  law that specifically  gives                                                                   
     the State  of Alaska the  power to prosecute  cases like                                                                   
     this that  occur on our  state-owned watercraft  and now                                                                   
     aircraft.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     This  problem is  not going  to go  away, Mr.  Chairman.                                                                   
     Just  as recently  as in  December, we  had an  incident                                                                   
     where  a  passenger  attacked  two  crewmembers  with  a                                                                   
     broken  vodka  bottle  and caused  some  injury  to  the                                                                   
     crewmembers. The  passenger has since filed  a motion to                                                                   
     dismiss based  upon the dismissal of this  case with the                                                                   
     sexual assault.  Also this occurred  on the  state ferry                                                                   
     system in  Canadian waters. This  bill is a  simple bill                                                                   
     but it  provides a solution  to a very serious  problem.                                                                   
     The bottom  line, to summarize  what we're trying  to do                                                                   
     here, is that  if the Canadian government  does not want                                                                   
     to  prosecute  criminal  activity   on  our  state-owned                                                                   
     vessels,  and the  federal government  doesn't have  any                                                                   
     interest, then  the state should have the  right and the                                                                   
     option to  do so  and this bill  will allow that.  Thank                                                                   
     you.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  DONLEY said  that  he supports  this  legislation but  is                                                              
flabbergasted because  he assumed  the federal government  did not                                                              
step in and prosecute that case.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MS.  ANNE CARPENETI,  representing  the Criminal  Division of  the                                                              
Department of  Law, said it is  her understanding that  the United                                                              
States Attorney's  Office is reviewing  the case. No  charges have                                                              
been filed yet, to her knowledge.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR DONLEY asked what the time frame is.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. CARPENETI  said she is not  familiar with the  federal statute                                                              
of limitations but she would find out.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR DONLEY said he thinks it's  dreadful that this happened on                                                              
a state ferry  and no federal decision about whether  to prosecute                                                              
has  been made,  given there  was  a grand  jury indictment  under                                                              
state law.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  MEYER  said he  has  written letters  to  Alaska's                                                              
congressional delegation about the matter.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS. CARPENETI said  the federal statutes are different  and she is                                                              
not familiar with federal screening rules.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR said  the bill was amended to  include state-owned                                                              
aircraft, but  he is concerned that  by limiting the bill  to only                                                              
those  aircraft  owned or  operated  by  the state,  the  question                                                              
remains open of who has jurisdiction  and who will prosecute on an                                                              
aircraft owned or  operated by the state flying  over Canadian air                                                              
space.   He said he would  like Alaska's long-arm  jurisdiction to                                                              
be as long as possible for the protection of Alaska's citizens.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MS. CARPENETI  commented that the  bill was originally  drafted to                                                              
address a particular problem on a  state ferry. She explained that                                                              
traditionally,  criminal  jurisdiction  of  a state  is  based  on                                                              
territorial considerations.  The theory  behind HB 405 is  that an                                                              
Alaska ferry or  aircraft is "like a little piece  of Alaska going                                                              
through  Canadian   waters."  She  noted  if  the   state  expands                                                              
jurisdiction too far, it is liable  to be subject to a due process                                                              
claim  and dismissal  so the  theory  was to  address the  current                                                              
problem and  consider how  to handle  future situations  under due                                                              
process considerations to expand the program.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  DONLEY  moved  SCS  CSHB  405(JUD)  from  committee  with                                                              
individual   recommendations,   as   well  as   its   accompanying                                                              
concurrent resolution.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  TAYLOR  announced  that   without  objection,  SCS  CSHB
405(JUD) moved from committee with its accompanying resolution.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  DONLEY  asked Representative  Meyer  for  a copy  of  the                                                              
correspondence  he sent on  this subject and  then moved  that the                                                              
Senate Judiciary  Committee send a  letter to the  U.S. Attorney's                                                              
Office expressing its concern and  support for examining this case                                                              
in an expedited manner.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR  announced that with no objection,  Representative                                                              
Meyer would work with staff to draft such a letter.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MEYER said he would be willing to do so.                                                                         

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