Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/08/2004 09:04 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                                                                                                                                
     CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 342(FIN) am                                                                                          
     "An Act relating  to driving while under the  influence, to the                                                            
     definition   of  'previously  convicted,'  to  alcohol-related                                                             
     offenses,  to ignition interlock  devices, and to the  issuance                                                            
     of limited  driver's licenses;  and providing for an  effective                                                            
     date."                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
This  was the first  hearing  for this  bill in  the Senate  Finance                                                            
Committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Wilken  explained  that  CS  HB  342(FIN)am,  Version  23-                                                            
LS1292\W.A  would strengthen the consequences  of Driving  Under the                                                            
Influence  (DUI) and would  provide more  authority to the  Wellness                                                            
Therapeutic Court. He noted  that a positive fiscal note accompanies                                                            
the bill.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CODY RICE,  Staff to the bill's sponsor  Representative Carl  Gatto,                                                            
informed  the  Committee  that  this  legislation   entails  several                                                            
changes to  the punishments  and sanctions  of those convicted  with                                                            
DUIs including  that those convicted  of driving at twice  the blood                                                            
alcohol  content (BAC)  limit of .08  percent would  be required  to                                                            
install  an ignition  interlock  device on  their  vehicles for  six                                                            
months and those  convicted of driving at three times  the legal BAC                                                            
limit would be required to install the devices for one year.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Rice noted  that another important  provision addressed  in this                                                            
bill is  the "look-back  provision."  He shared  that current  State                                                            
regulations  specify that "misdemeanor  look-backs are lifetime"  in                                                            
that, he explained,  were a person convicted of a  DUI at the age of                                                            
18 and  then again at  the age of  65, it would  be recognized  as a                                                            
second  DUI  offense.  He  compared  the  unlimited   DUI  look-back                                                            
provision to  the State's felony look-back  provision, which,  while                                                            
currently set  at eight years, is  scheduled to be increased  to ten                                                            
years by the year 2006.  This legislation, he explained would reduce                                                            
the lifetime look-back for misdemeanors to 15-years.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Rice  noted that implementation  of a  15-year look-back  period                                                            
for misdemeanors would  more align Alaska's look-back timeframe with                                                            
other states' misdemeanor  look-back provisions, as reflected in the                                                            
chart  titled "  National  Conference  of State  Legislatures  Drunk                                                            
Driving Sanctions Time  Frames Used by States for Inclusion of Prior                                                            
Offenses" [copy on file].                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Rice  further   noted  that  while  current  law   allows  only                                                            
individuals with  a single DUI offense to be eligible  for a limited                                                            
driver's license, this  bill would allow those with multiple DUIs to                                                            
be issued a limited driver's  license, provided they fulfill certain                                                            
requirements such  as completion of Wellness Courts  or installation                                                            
of an ignition  interlock device.  He pointed out that the  Members'                                                            
packets  contain a  flow chart  titled "Limited  Licenses" [copy  on                                                            
file] that  reflects the  various requirements.  He also noted  that                                                            
the  packets  contain  another  flow  chart  titled  "HB 342  -  DUI                                                            
Penalties"  [copy  on  file]  that  outlines  the  proposed  penalty                                                            
changes  for  differing  BAC  levels as  explained  in  his  opening                                                            
remarks.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Senator Bunde  commented that were  a 15-year misdemeanor  look-back                                                            
policy  adopted,  it  would  "substantially  exceed"  the  look-back                                                            
period of any other state.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Rice  replied that  that is  correct, with  the exception  being                                                            
Minnesota, which has a 15-year look-back provision.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Senator   Bunde  questioned   the  rationale   for  implementing   a                                                            
misdemeanor 15-year  look-back policy when the State's  felony look-                                                            
back policy is limited to ten-years.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Rice  commented  that Representative  Norm  Rokeberg  originally                                                            
proposed  this  provision  in  separate  legislation,  HB  175-PRIOR                                                            
CONVICTIONS FOR DUI that was absorbed into this legislation.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Bunde  asked  whether  pampering  with  ignition  interlock                                                            
device readings could compromise their BAC readings.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Rice expressed  that while older devices might  have been flawed                                                            
in this  regard, modern  devices have been  upgraded to incorporate                                                             
complicated  mechanisms and  such things as  "rolling re-tests."  He                                                            
noted  that the devices  are constantly  being  modified to  prevent                                                            
pampering.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Senator Bunde  surmised that these  "sophisticated" devices  must be                                                            
expensive.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Rice  replied that use  of the device  would cost approximately                                                             
three dollars  per day,  which could  be likened  "to the cost  of a                                                            
drink a day."                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Senator Bunde  calculated that this would equate to  approximately a                                                            
$1,000 a year.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Rice  concurred.  However,  he stated  that,  were  the  device                                                            
"imposed at  sentencing," current  statutes could allow the  cost of                                                            
the  device to  be  deducted  from the  "fairly  substantial  fines"                                                            
imposed by the Court.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Senator   Bunde  expressed   that  his  questions   should   not  be                                                            
misconstrued to be supportive  of drinking and driving but rather to                                                            
acknowledge that  some people do this, as a result  of "a mistake or                                                            
poor judgment."  He noted that another  example of poor judgment  is                                                            
driving without use of  a seatbelt. He stated that he is considering                                                            
an  amendment  to  incorporate   seatbelt  requirements   into  this                                                            
legislation.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson  voiced the concern that imposing restrictive  devices                                                            
such as the ignition  interlock device might impede  the safe use of                                                            
the vehicle  by the offender  or by other  people who might  use the                                                            
vehicle.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Rice responded  that the device requirements are  easy to comply                                                            
with.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson  continued to  voice concern  that, at an inopportune                                                             
moment, the requirements  of the device might not  allow the vehicle                                                            
to operate in a necessary manner when being driven.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Bunde asked for  additional information  regarding  the DUI                                                            
misdemeanor look-back timeframe of 15-years.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
AMANDA  WILSON, Staff  to Representative  Norm  Rokeberg,  expressed                                                            
that State laws  pertaining to DUIs are harsh and  that the lifetime                                                            
look-back policy  reinforced that position. However,  she noted that                                                            
treating individuals  with two DUI  offenses twenty or thirty  years                                                            
apart in the same manner  as repeat offenders who have multiple DUIs                                                            
in a  relatively  short period  of  time is  unfair and  is not  the                                                            
intent of the  law. Therefore, she  stated that the purpose  of this                                                            
proposal is to "correct  an oversight" rather than to lessen the DUI                                                            
penalty.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Senator Bunde  asked the  reason the felony  look-back timeframe  is                                                            
less  that  the  15-year  misdemeanor  timeframe  proposed  in  this                                                            
legislation.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Ms. A.  Wilson stated that  the 15-year  misdemeanor look-back  time                                                            
period was determined  upon review of what other states  were doing.                                                            
She  noted  that only  one  other  state has  a  lifetime  look-back                                                            
policy.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Green  asked for confirmation that this bill  is the result                                                            
of the merger of other similar bills.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Rice replied that it is.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair   Wilken   interjected   that,  due   to   the  fact   that                                                            
Representative  Rokeberg sponsored  one of  the original bills,  his                                                            
staff is available to answer questions.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
LINDA WILSON,  Deputy Director, Public  Defender Agency,  Department                                                            
of Administration,  testified via teleconference from  Anchorage and                                                            
echoed the  testimony that Alaska  has some of toughest DWI  offense                                                            
penalties  in the country  and that  there is  only one other  state                                                            
with  a lifetime  look-back  policy.  She  stressed that  even  with                                                            
limiting  the  look-back  time  period  to  15-years,  Alaska  would                                                            
continue to  have a tough stance on  drinking and driving  offenses.                                                            
She declared  that  current law  is unfair  in that  it would  treat                                                            
someone  convicted of  a DUI  at the age  of 18  and then  convicted                                                            
again at the age of 72  as a second offender. She voiced support for                                                            
limiting the look-back to 15-years.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Ms.  L.  Wilson  voiced concern  that  the  bill  does  not  provide                                                            
consideration  to the fact  that no ignition  interlock devices  are                                                            
available  for off-road vehicles,  which are  utilized in  road-less                                                            
areas.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SFC 04 # 111, Side B 09:53 AM                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Ms. L. Wilson  also voiced concern as to whether there  would be the                                                            
ability to  install the devices on  vehicles in remote areas  of the                                                            
State such  as Nome, and  if that ability  were available,  how much                                                            
the  installation  cost would  be.  She declared  that  requiring  a                                                            
person  to install  the  device might  pose  to be  a difficult  and                                                            
unfair thing  that "might be harsh  on poor people" or to  those who                                                            
live in remote  areas. She also questioned the manner  through which                                                            
BAC would be measured and  noted that the issue of whether someone's                                                            
BAC  was  double   of  triple  the  legal  limit  could   result  in                                                            
litigation.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
DUANE BANNOCK,  Director, Division of Motor Vehicles,  Department of                                                            
Administration,  testified via teleconference  from an offnet  site,                                                            
in support  the bill; particularly  the language  that would  expand                                                            
the issuance of  a limited license to repeat DUI offenders  provided                                                            
certain requirements  are in place.  He noted that currently  repeat                                                            
DUI offenders are not eligible for limited licenses.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Wilken ordered  the  bill HELD  in Committee  in order  to                                                            
address questions that were raised.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                

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