Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/27/1996 01:20 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 194 - CRIMES: GANG-RELATED & MISC. Number 2155 SHERMAN ERNOUF, Staff to Senator Tim Kelly, testified that SB 194 was introduced in response to rapid escalation of violent gang activity throughout Alaska. He noted the amount of gang related violence this past year and previous. In 1995, there were more than four gang-related murders committed in Anchorage, as well as, numerous gang-related hold-ups and drive by shootings, and other criminal activities by gangs. Present intelligence from the Anchorage Police Department notes that there are over 463 gang members active in Anchorage. The central purpose behind this bill is to give law enforcement and prosecutors the tools that they desperately need to deal with the increased presence of gangs in Alaska. This committee substitute now before the House Judiciary Committee represents quite a bit of work between the attorney general's office, enforcement officials and Senator Tim Kelly. MR. ERNOUF went on to note that this legislation does six major things, first, it amends the crime of second degree murder to include a felony murder provision for a death resulting from a drug offense or gang-related shooting. Currently, if a by-stander is shot in a shoot-out between two drug dealers attempting to complete a drug deal, for example, or in a crime committed by a gang or gangs, the shooter can claim that they were firing in self-defense. This provision would eliminate a claim of self-defense when an innocent by-stander is injured and would hold drug dealers and gangs accountable for their dangerous behavior. MR. ERNOUF stated that secondly, this legislation creates a new specific crime of recruiting a gang member. It enumerates a crime if a person uses or threatens to use force against a person or property to induce someone to participate in a criminal street gang or commit gang violence. This crime would constitute a class C felony. Further, this crime would be extended to recruitment without force by a person eighteen years of age or older who encourages a younger person under the age of eighteen to participate in a gang. This would be recruitment in the second degree and this would constitute a class A misdemeanor. MR. ERNOUF continued that thirdly, this legislation elevates the crime of weapons misconduct which is applicable to drive-by shootings and elevates this to a class A felony punishable by five to ten years in prison. Further, to add teeth to the bill, it allows for expert testimony relating to criminal street gang activity. Currently, it is very hard to get evidence before the court regarding the activities of gangs. This section of the bill would allow testimony to show gang affiliations, gang customs, rivalries and other characteristics of gangs which would be necessary to implement some of the things in the bill. This was requested by numerous people involved. MR. ERNOUF further stated that a forfeiture provision has been included in this legislation which provides for forfeiture to state of motor vehicles, weapons, electronic communication devises, money, valuables or any other personal property obtained through an offense which was committed for the benefit of, at the direction or in association with a criminal street gang. Lastly, the one major point he wanted to make was that this legislation allows and would provide gang membership to be considered as an aggravator during sentencing for felonies. It would also elevate misdemeanors committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal street gang. For example, if a gang committed a B misdemeanor this would elevate this to an A misdemeanor. Similarly, if they committed an A misdemeanor, this would be elevated to a class C felony during sentencing. MR. ERNOUF added that this legislation has been endorsed by the Peace Officers Association. He also noted that he didn't know of anyone who opposes this bill in it's current form. Number 2359 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked about weapons misconduct and asked if there were varying degrees of this offense. MS. CARPENETI stated that yes, the law presently has four degrees (indisc. - documents on microphone). This adds to misconduct involving weapons in the first degree drive-by shootings under circumstances manifesting the substantial and justifiable risk of physical injury to a person or damage to property. She would make just one minor correction, it is an A felony which has a maximum of 20 years of incarceration, not 10. Number 2400 REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY stated that she didn't understand what the purpose of 13 fiscal notes attached to this legislation was all about. Number 2443 REPRESENTATIVE BETTYE DAVIS asked if the Attorney General's office is saying that this bill was actually going to do something, because she read in the notation that they had some concerns and they didn't think it was going to do anything, anyway. She asked if this bill was on line now, that it will do something and the Department of Law has removed the objection to this bill. MS. CARPENETI stated that she had testified in Senate Judiciary on the original bill and they had serious reservations about a section prohibiting participation in criminal street gangs and it was their view and still is that the difficulty of proving this was not justified by the C felony which they ended up with. If the elements in this offense had to be proved they would be better off and they would be able to prove accomplish liability and get a higher level of offense, for example, an accomplice to robbery if they had to prove all these various things which are difficult to prove. TAPE 96-44, SIDE B Number 006 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS made a motion to move CSSB 194(JUD) from the House Judiciary Committee with individual recommendations and attached 14 zero fiscal notes. There being no objection it was so moved.