Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/06/2003 03:02 PM TRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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                                                               
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.                                                                                        

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