Legislature(2001 - 2002)
04/24/2002 01:44 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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.