Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/05/2003 01:07 PM Senate JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
      CSHB 114(JUD) (title am)-ISSUANCE OF SEARCH WARRANTS                                                                  
CHAIR SEEKINS announced HB 114 to be up for consideration.                                                                      
MR. DOUG WOOLIVER, Administrative  Attorney, Alaska Court System,                                                               
said HB  114 was introduced  at the  request of the  Alaska State                                                               
Supreme Court to  clear up the technical way in  which judges are                                                               
allowed  to  receive  testimony  and  affidavits  from  a  police                                                               
officer  that  wants  to  get a  search  warrant.  Under  general                                                               
circumstances, if  a police  officer wants  a search  warrant, he                                                               
can either fill out an affidavit and  take it to court or talk to                                                               
the  judge  in  person.  This  works  fine  except  in  the  many                                                               
circumstances  when  the judge  and  the  police officer  are  in                                                               
different communities,  which is common  in Alaska. Right  now to                                                               
handle  those circumstances  the  law allows  under very  limited                                                               
circumstances a  police officer to  fax in their  application and                                                               
allows them  to speak to  the judge  over the phone.  The trouble                                                               
with that  is the only time  that's allowed is when  the item the                                                               
officer wants to search is in danger of being lost of destroyed.                                                                
Many  times that  standard  simply can't  be  met. For  instance,                                                               
police  officers   in  Togiak  seized  what   they  believed  was                                                               
bootlegged liquor in  some luggage off of an  airplane. Once they                                                               
seized  it,  it  was  no  longer  in  danger  of  being  lost  or                                                               
destroyed,  but  they  needed  a   search  warrant  to  open  it.                                                               
Routinely they call in to a  trooper post at the nearest location                                                               
that  has a  judge, who  in turn  asks the  judge for  the search                                                               
warrant. It's  faster and more  reliable if the officer  can just                                                               
contact  the judge  directly. Another  circumstance that  happens                                                               
frequently is  an officer will do  a "knock and talk"  outside of                                                               
Talkeetna,  for example.  They get  to a  residence at  night and                                                               
smell a marijuana  growing operation in a shed by  the house. Now                                                               
the troopers  are on-site so  the marijuana  is not in  danger of                                                               
being  lost or  destroyed, they  need a  warrant to  go into  the                                                               
shed. So, one trooper stays  in Talkeetna, another trooper drives                                                               
all the way  into Anchorage where the nearest judge  is at night,                                                               
gets the  search warrant  and then  drives all  the way  back. It                                                               
takes two  troopers out of commission  for four hours to  do that                                                               
round trip.                                                                                                                     
All this bill does  is add one sentence to the  statute - "or not                                                               
getting a search  warrant in this manner will  interfere with the                                                               
ongoing investigation."  It allows  a judge to  accept telephonic                                                               
and  faxed testimony  to  issue  a search  warrant.  It does  not                                                               
change in  any way the  standard that has to  be met in  order to                                                               
get a search warrant.                                                                                                           
SENATOR THERRIAULT  asked if the  trooper having to stay  on site                                                               
is the interference or the delay.                                                                                               
MR. WOOLIVER  said anything would  be a delay. Everything  has to                                                               
be stopped  to get a warrant  as a practical issue  and the delay                                                               
means something.                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH  said he  worked in this  area and  getting search                                                               
warrants  in bush  communities  is more  difficult  than in  many                                                               
places that  have ready  access to  courts. He  thinks this  is a                                                               
good common sense approach to the matter.                                                                                       
SENATOR  OGAN   moved  to  pass  CSHB   114(JUD)(title  am)  from                                                               
committee  with the  zero  fiscal note  and  asked for  unanimous                                                               
consent. There was no objection and it was so ordered.                                                                          
2:13 - 2:15 p.m. - at ease                                                                                                      
CHAIR SEEKINS adjourned the meeting at 2:15 p.m.                                                                                

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