Legislature(2003 - 2004)
05/08/2004 09:04 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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.