Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 211

03/31/2009 09:00 AM Senate STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved CSSB 158(STA) Out of Committee
Moved SB 68 Out of Committee
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
<Above Item Removed from Agenda>
                   SB 158-RETURN OF PROPERTY                                                                                
9:52:33 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MENARD announced the consideration of SB 158.                                                                             
SENATOR FRED  DYSON, Alaska State  Legislature, said a  friend of                                                               
his runs a  boat building shop. Two people came  in and said they                                                               
wanted to buy  a boat. Later, almost $45,000  worth of electronic                                                               
equipment disappeared.  The owner found  two thirds of  his goods                                                               
in hock  shops and on internet  sales. The police picked  up much                                                               
of it, which led them to  the perpetrators. The shop owner had to                                                               
repurchase similar  equipment because the stolen  items were held                                                               
as evidence. State  law allows that the  evidence be photographed                                                               
for use  in court. That  often doesn't happen. Senator  Dyson has                                                               
spoken   with  prosecutors,   district   attorneys,  and   police                                                               
officers. Due  to the high  volume of these  low-priority crimes,                                                               
the property is often not returned in a timely fashion.                                                                         
9:55:31 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR DYSON  said state  law is  adequate in  this area;  it is                                                               
just a problem  of emphasis and streamlining the  process. SB 158                                                               
attempts  to facilitate  getting  property back  to the  rightful                                                               
owner without disturbing the legal process.                                                                                     
CHAIR  MENARD  said the  bill  allows  60  days after  the  final                                                               
disposition of the case.                                                                                                        
SENATOR  FRENCH said  this  seems  to be  a  good idea.  Property                                                               
owners can be  inconvenienced for a long time. The  bill puts the                                                               
decision  in the  right agency.  "You  let the  cops decide  when                                                               
they're through  with it.  That may give  some people  pause, but                                                               
they're the people  who we've charged with enforcing  the law and                                                               
... beginning the process of prosecution,  so it looks ... like a                                                               
good idea."  He asked  if there are  supportive letters  from the                                                               
police, union, or the administration.                                                                                           
9:57:12 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR DYSON said no, but  Annie Carpeneti is available from the                                                               
Department of Law.  He has also talked with  police and troopers,                                                               
but he has  no letters in hand.  He has been told  that a defense                                                               
attorney  has  to  agree  for  the  evidence  to  leave  custody.                                                               
Sometimes  the  defense  won't  allow  it  in  efforts  to  throw                                                               
roadblocks in the way of the prosecution.                                                                                       
9:58:07 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  FRENCH  said  he  doesn't   know  about  that.  Pretrial                                                               
evidence may be needed but  not crucial. The defense attorney may                                                               
have to give permission to give something back to the victim.                                                                   
ANNIE CARPENETI,  Criminal Division,  Department of  Law, Juneau,                                                               
said  she understands  that victims  want to  get their  property                                                               
back.  The  state  has  a  duty  to  preserve  evidence  that  is                                                               
discoverable by  the defense. If that  is not done, the  state is                                                               
sanctioned,  which  can  include dismissing  the  prosecution  or                                                               
telling  the jury  to  presume  that the  evidence  would not  be                                                               
favorable to the defense. "We  are working under some constraints                                                               
as to  ... the constitutional  right to discovery of  evidence by                                                               
the defense."  Police need  to consult with  the defense  and the                                                               
prosecution  before  returning  property.  The way  the  bill  is                                                               
drafted makes  it look like  the police could make  that decision                                                               
on their  own. Most  would still  consult but  "we would  like to                                                               
make it  clear that  they would."  It doesn't  say when,  it just                                                               
says before 60 days after the  case is completed. It is important                                                               
to keep evidence to meet discovery obligations under the law.                                                                   
SENATOR FRENCH asked what "final  disposition of the case" means.                                                               
Is that the exhaustion of all appellate opportunities?                                                                          
MS.  CARPENETI  said yes.  These  days  that  date is  not  clear                                                               
because  of   post-conviction  relief   and  appeals.   The  more                                                               
important the case, the longer it goes.                                                                                         
10:01:12 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  FRENCH asked  Ms. Carpeneti  if  she has  a phrase  that                                                               
should  be  added so  that  law  enforcement  must speak  to  the                                                               
prosecution and defense before releasing property.                                                                              
MS. CARPENETI  said on  line 9, after  "determines" add  ", after                                                               
consulting the prosecuting authority and the defense,".                                                                         
SENATOR FRENCH moved  Conceptual Amendment 1 as  stated above, as                                                               
long  as it  comes back  as  a draft  amendment from  legislative                                                               
legal services. Hearing no objection,  Conceptual Amendment 1 was                                                               
SENATOR  DYSON  said  the  next  committee  of  referral  is  the                                                               
judiciary. This committee  should decide that the bill  is in the                                                               
public  interest  because  it  protects  victims  from  continual                                                               
victimization. The legal issue can be fixed in judiciary.                                                                       
10:02:53 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  FRENCH said  the amendment  passed. If  the bill  leaves                                                               
state affairs, the language will appear in the next committee.                                                                  
SENATOR PASKVAN  said he concurs. The  prosecution will determine                                                               
the weight of the evidence. The amendment is appropriate.                                                                       
SENATOR DYSON  said he wants "to  bump this up as  a priority for                                                               
the prosecutors  and law  enforcement folks to  take care  of the                                                               
victim." Already they have to  get permission from the defense to                                                               
get  the evidence  released. Maybe  these changes  help do  that.                                                               
"I'm good," he concluded.                                                                                                       
10:04:28 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR MEYER moved to report  SB 158, as amended, from committee                                                               
with  individual  recommendations  and attached  fiscal  note(s).                                                               
There being no objection, CSSB 158(STA) moved out of committee.                                                                 
The committee took a brief at-ease.                                                                                             

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