Legislature(2003 - 2004)
05/06/2003 03:02 PM TRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 53 - REVOKE DRIVER'S LIC. FOR FATAL ACCIDENT CO-CHAIR MASEK announced that the final 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 2255 SENATOR SCOTT OGAN, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor of SB 53, testified that he introduced similar legislation approximately eight years ago. He reported that it was carried for several sessions and had passed in the [House] and made it through the committee process in the [Senate] during the last session, but did not make it through at the end of session. SENATOR OGAN told the committee of some friends of his, also known by people in the room, who had lost their two oldest boys in a car wreck eight years ago. The person who had caused that car wreck was basically charged with a traffic violation, also had six points taken off of his/her license, and [had to do] some [community] service. The family was told that there was no culpable mental state, and for someone to be charged with a felony or with manslaughter, there has to be a culpable mental state. He said that when running a red light, or when driving irresponsibly and violating traffic law, one doesn't [necessarily have a] culpable mental state, so prosecution can't take place unless there is something egregious involved like alcohol or reckless driving; there is no way to prosecute such an individual for anything other than a traffic violation. SENATOR OGAN testified that after the bill was introduced, he heard from a woman who had lost her daughter in a car wreck and who had been unable to track down [the driver]; it was found that the woman [driving the car] was cited for running a red light and had to pay a $50 fine. Senator Ogan said he has been "pushing this issue" for a number of years because the situation seemed so unjust. Then-Governor Knowles pushed this last year and legislation almost made it through the process. Senator Ogan explained that in Section 1 of SB 53, court rules are amended so as to require a trial to honor due process, if someone is going to lose his/her license. Section 2 addresses revocation of the driver's license, although it's not a mandatory revocation. He pointed out that objection in the past has pertained to a situation such as taking a license away from a parent who is driving a vehicle, who has children in the car, and who hits a patch of ice and [has an accident] that results in the death of his/her child. He said the desire is to grant the courts the ability to exercise discretion to make the judgment call regarding who needs to lose his/her license and who doesn't. SENATOR OGAN outlined that the person has to be operating the motor vehicle that was involved in the accident, the accident has to cause a death of another person, and there has to be violation of a traffic law. There is also latitude regarding a limited license for such things as work or for taking care of sick family members. Victims' rights are protected by allowing a representative of the family to testify at the hearing when there is a request for revoking the license or for issuing a limited license. Number 2093 REPRESENTATIVE FATE said he likes the bill but wishes that it were expanded to include not only death, but also permanent disability because he knows of cases, close to him, where there was a third party who caused an accident that resulted in a $10 fine for not having taillights. He said in this example, this was a terrible accident wherein people were seriously injured, and that he would like "permanent impairment" to be included in the bill as well. SENATOR OGAN replied that this sentiment was brought up in the other body and he fully agrees; however, after eight years of addressing this issue, he would rather address one thing at a time. He said he would be happy to introduce such a bill regarding disability, but since this has been a long and arduous process, he would rather keep it narrow at this point. He commented about the woman who had lost a daughter to a driver who had been fined $50 for running a red light, and noted that this woman had another daughter who was permanently disabled. REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING commended Senator Ogan for the legislation, commenting that he was at the service in March 1994 after those two young men, whom he knew very well, had died; he said he felt motivated to pass SB 53, hoping that it would help with other situations. CO-CHAIR HOLM mentioned that this bill has already been extensively worked through, both in this body and the other body, and that a lot of people's concerns have already been addressed. Number 1978 LINDA WILSON, Deputy Director, Public Defender Agency, Department of Administration, testified that with the enactment of SB 53, the agency would be representing people who would not otherwise be entitled to [legal] counsel. She said that when there is the possibility of losing one's driver's license, one is entitled to a trial. However, she predicted that there would be so few of these cases - hopefully, none - that the fiscal impact on the agency would be very slight. She said from what she had heard from the [Division of Motor Vehicles], there should be less than 10, if that many, so the effect would be minimal. She said she was available for questions. CO-CHAIR MASEK, ascertaining that there was no further testimony, closed public testimony on SB 53. Number 1898 REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING 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 Transportation Standing Committee.