Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/17/2003 09:15 AM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 53 - REVOKE DRIVER'S LIC. FOR FATAL ACCIDENT                                                                               
Number 2335                                                                                                                     
CHAIR McGUIRE announced that the  next order of business would be                                                               
SENATE BILL NO. 53, "An Act  relating to disposition of a traffic                                                               
offense  involving  the death  of  a  person; providing  for  the                                                               
revocation  of  driving  privileges  by  a  court  for  a  driver                                                               
convicted of  a violation  of traffic laws  in connection  with a                                                               
fatal  motor  vehicle  or   commercial  motor  vehicle  accident;                                                               
amending Rules 43  and 43.1, Alaska Rules  of Administration; and                                                               
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
Number 2340                                                                                                                     
SENATOR SCOTT OGAN,  Alaska State Legislature, sponsor  of SB 53,                                                               
said  that he  has  been  working on  this  legislation for  nine                                                               
years.   He  noted that  last year,  Governor Knowles  introduced                                                               
this bill, and although it passed  the House, it didn't have time                                                               
to  pass the  Senate.    Senate Bill  53  would  give the  Alaska                                                               
Supreme  Court the  ability  to establish  rules  that require  a                                                               
court appearance  for a fatal  car accident that resulted  from a                                                               
traffic violation.                                                                                                              
TAPE 03-66, SIDE B                                                                                                            
Number 2392                                                                                                                     
SENATOR OGAN  said that this  bill was engendered by  an accident                                                               
that  took the  lives of  two dear  friend's sons.   Because  the                                                               
person  responsible  for causing  that  fatal  accident had  only                                                               
violated a traffic law, he had  six points taken off his driver's                                                               
license,  had to  perform community  service,  and had  to pay  a                                                               
minimal fine.   He  mentioned that  in order  to be  charged with                                                               
manslaughter, there  has to  be a culpable  mental state.   Thus,                                                               
merely  running a  red light  or engaging  in some  other traffic                                                               
violation  could  not  reach  that  level of  charge  even  if  a                                                               
resulting accident caused  another's death.  What SB  53 would do                                                               
is it would  allow for more than just a  small fine and community                                                               
work  service  if  a  person  violated  a  traffic  law  and  any                                                               
resulting accident  caused another's death.   He relayed  that at                                                               
one point, someone provided testimony  that a person who'd caused                                                               
a fatal  accident by running  a red light  had only gotten  a $50                                                               
SENATOR OGAN indicated that adoption of  SB 53 is simply a matter                                                               
of justice.   In  addition to requiring  a court  appearance, the                                                               
bill provides the court with  the discretion to revoke a driver's                                                               
license  for up  to three  years  and grant  limited licenses  in                                                               
hardship cases.   He opined  that SB 53  is a balanced  bill, and                                                               
noted that  it does not  alter existing  language.  He  asked the                                                               
committee for its support of the bill.                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS  opined that  SB 53  is a  good idea.   He                                                               
thanked Senator Ogan for bringing it forward.                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  mentioned  that he's  had  very  close                                                               
friends of  his die  in an  accident that  was caused  by someone                                                               
who'd  been  watching  a  DVD  while driving  an  RV.    He  also                                                               
mentioned that several  states have made it a crime  to operate a                                                               
vehicle  while  watching a  DVD.    He  asked whether  a  similar                                                               
provision could fit into SB 53.                                                                                                 
SENATOR  OGAN  relayed  that  the  person  responsible  for  that                                                               
accident was charged with manslaughter.                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG said  that  he  wanted to  specifically                                                               
make it  against the law  to operate  a vehicle while  watching a                                                               
SENATOR OGAN  suggested that perhaps  legislation to  that effect                                                               
could be introduced next year.                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG agreed.                                                                                                
Number 2176                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON  moved to report  SB 53 out  of committee                                                               
with  individual  recommendations  and  the  accompanying  fiscal                                                               
notes.   There being no  objection, SB  53 was reported  from the                                                               
House Judiciary Standing Committee.                                                                                             

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