Big fixes for justice: HB 312 passes Senate



A section in the controversial Senate Bill 91 that had that low- to moderate-risk defendants released without bail has been reversed in a new bill, HB 312.

On Thursday, the Alaska Senate voted to give judges their authority back so they may order bail when they think there’s a risk of repeat offending, or if they think the defendant will skip court. This puts the brakes on what has become known as the “catch-and-release” clause of SB 91, one of the problematic aspects of the bill signed by Gov. Bill Walker in 2016.

Alaska has seen crime — especially property crime — grow at an alarming rate in the past two years, and some attribute the crime wave to SB 91. But only since January have people charged with misdemeanors been nearly automatically released without bail.

Anchorage Republican Sen. Mia Costello wants to make sure judges can use their judgment again.

HB 312 is a combination of four bills that:

  • Remove mandatory release requirements; judges have discretion;
  • Make it a crime to attack medical professionals who are trying to help people;
  • Grant judges more flexibility to hold offenders in jail while they await trial;
  • Empower the attorney general to use emergency orders to ban dangerous new drugs;
  • Ensure judges can take into account out-of-state criminal charges when making pre-trial release decisions.

“I heard from many Alaskans who said they are frustrated when the criminal who victimized them is caught, only to be immediately released, and then there are additional victims,” Costello said.


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