Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/09/2003 01:30 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
              HB  23-RESTITUTION FOR CRIME VICTIMS                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  announced CSHB 23(JUD),  version \U, to be  up for                                                               
consideration.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT said  with regard to the  concern he expressed                                                               
at a previous  meeting, he understands the  rationale between the                                                               
two groups and is willing to go forward.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS said  he understands  that this  would allow  non-                                                               
profits to  be able  to collect for  volunteer labor.  For profit                                                               
corporations  are able  to seek  recovery for  labor required  to                                                               
clean up after a crime, but  a private individual would still not                                                               
be able  to collect for  time volunteers might spend  cleaning up                                                               
after a crime.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MS.  LINDA SYLVESTER,  staff to  Representative Bruce  Weyhrauch,                                                               
said she would answer questions.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  OGAN  asked what  they  were  trying  to fix  with  this                                                               
legislation.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. SYLVESTER  replied that the  bill was written in  response to                                                               
an incident  that happened in  Juneau with the Alaska  State Folk                                                               
Festival  when  the  treasurer  embezzled  funds.  The  case  was                                                               
prosecuted and the  festival board and six  volunteers spent over                                                               
200 hours  providing evidence for  the police  department. During                                                               
the  restitution  hearing the  court  determined  that state  law                                                               
didn't clearly  envision that  the efforts  of a  volunteer board                                                               
could be included in the restitution.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR OGAN asked if the  non-profit had recourse for damages in                                                               
civil court.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. SYLVESTER  replied that they  would have, but  restitution is                                                               
in a criminal proceeding and is  an avenue that is available to a                                                               
victim  so that  they  can  be made  whole  in  an expedited  way                                                               
without going to civil court.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS  said  it  clarifies that  these  are  not  actual                                                               
damages  that  have been  paid  to  someone to  perform  auditing                                                               
services to determine the amount  of the embezzlement, but rather                                                               
actual hours of time spent by volunteers.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR OGAN  said he is a  little troubled by the  direction the                                                               
bill is going. He is concerned  whether it is an appropriate role                                                               
to award  what would typically  be a  civil damage in  a criminal                                                               
case.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  FRENCH said  he  shares  that concern  and  he also  has                                                               
issues with how  a court would value the  services, especially in                                                               
the folk festival case where they didn't spend any money.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     So the $5,000  they are getting is what  you might call                                                                    
     unjust enrichment.  I think on balance,  we should fall                                                                    
     on  the  side  of  the  non-profit.  And,  I  think  on                                                                    
     balance, courts will  be aware of where  you can fairly                                                                    
     assign  a dollar  value and  where they  can't. They'll                                                                    
     deny  a request  in  criminal court  still leaving  the                                                                    
     victim free  to run  straight over  to civil  court and                                                                    
     file a claim. I don't  think anyone should look at this                                                                    
     as a  free for all for  crime victims to get  paid back                                                                    
     because they never will be...                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS agreed with Senator French.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT said his concern  is that they are carving the                                                               
non-profits  out for  this  little extra  treatment  that is  not                                                               
available to  individual citizens. He then  acknowledged that you                                                               
have to recognize the good that non-profits provide in society.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     They're  not  going  to  be  able  to  unfairly  enrich                                                                    
     themselves.  I  think  the  courts  will  step  in  and                                                                    
     prevent that from happening.  It doesn't guarantee them                                                                    
     to  be  made   whole,  because  a  lot   of  times  the                                                                    
     individuals that  perpetrate the crimes don't  have the                                                                    
     means...                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS. SYLVESTER  said this is okay  because the people in  the non-                                                               
profits are  not getting paid and  it's difficult for a  group to                                                               
come up with a monetary  award. Also, most often these situations                                                               
are dealing  with embezzlement and  the way our  criminal justice                                                               
system is  set up, they  are not  going to investigate  and spend                                                               
the  time   and  effort  reconstructing  books   that  have  been                                                               
completely destroyed or don't exist.  It's a similar situation to                                                               
asking a rape victim to go  out and hunt down the perpetrator and                                                               
pay  for the  testing and  then turn  the situation  over to  the                                                               
police.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
She said that  narrowing this down to  just non-profits corrected                                                               
an indeterminate  fiscal note to  a zero fiscal note.  That means                                                               
that public  defenders won't be involved  in defending individual                                                               
defendants from claims of many individuals.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  OGAN said  he is  still concerned  that this  carved out                                                               
special treatment for a group of people.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT   made  a  motion   to  pass   CSHB  23(JUD),                                                               
version\U, from committee  with individual recommendations. There                                                               
was no objection and it was so ordered.                                                                                         

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