(4-minute read) AG CLARKSON EXPLAINS ROLLBACK OF SB91 CRIME BILL
Alaska’s attorney general today gave Senate Judiciary Committee members a primer on one of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s bills to crack down on crime — Senate Bill 32.
Attorney General Kevin Clarkson explained how the bill will strengthen Alaska’s laws that address illegal drugs.
SB 32 makes it a felony to possess the most dangerous drugs, such as heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, fentanyl, and other drugs.
The change of crime classification from a misdemeanor to a felony will help incentive drug treatment, Clarkson said.
“Drug seizures are increasing every year and the amount of illegal drugs fueling the opioid epidemic is unacceptable,” he told the committee.
As for trafficking drugs, SB 32 returns the crime to being a Class A and B felony from Class B and C levels, as they are now, under SB 91, the problematic crime bill that lawmakers are trying to undo.
SB 32 also removes quantity as an element of the offense of trafficking. This will help prevent drug traffickers from deliberately keeping just under the possession thresholds in order to avoid consequences for the dangerous drugs found on them.
“If they’re trafficking drugs, they’re trafficking drugs,” Clarkson said. The change will allow judges to impose more time in jail for those convicted of drug trafficking.
SB 32 also addresses the manufacture of meth, with “enhanced sentencing” for meth lab operators who are in close proximity to children.
The practical effect of this portion of the bill is limited: In fact, meth manufacturing has moved to Mexico and, as a consequence, domestic meth lab seizures are the lowest they’ve been in 17 years across the country, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.
But SB 32 will have an impact on sentencing. It will return all sentencing ranges to their pre-SB 91 levels, where the levels were reduced in felony and misdemeanor sentencing under SB 91. This change is to give judges the discretion to impose sentences appropriate to the circumstances of the crime.
SB 32 addresses threats such as school shootings by establishing a new crime in Alaska: Terroristic threatening. The bill creates a general threat statute so law enforcement can act sooner when a person threatens to harm others.
Currently, Alaska statute has a significant gap, Clarkson said, which makes it difficult to intervene before a person takes steps to carry through with their threats.
REMOVING ANKLE MONITORS
SB 32 creates a new felony offense for removal of an ankle monitor during the pretrial phase or when in custody on a misdemeanor offense.
With SB 91 releasing many criminals onto the streets who are wearing ankle monitors, it became common knowledge in the criminal community that there was no penalty for removing the monitor. Now, it will be a separate criminal offense.
DNA SAMPLE REFUSAL
SB 32 will make it a class a misdemeanor for a person to refuse to provide a DNA sample upon arrest. Clarkson said that the State wants to enter the samples into a database the DNA Identification Registration System that can help investigators solve other crimes.
“Many will recall that it was the DNA registration system that enabled law enforcement and prosecutors to solve the Bonnie Craig murder,” he said.
SB 32 increases the maximum level of general probation to ensure offenders are appropriately monitored.
“Alaskans cannot continue down the path of SB 91,” Clarkson said. “Not when the crime rates continue to increase year after year in all categories. We have to be responsive to the public and to the victims of crime.”
SB 32 is a first step in that process, he said. It’s part of a package of Dunleavy bills that are meant to get criminals off the streets.