Costello announces effort to repeal SB 91 - Must Read Alaska
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Sunday, June 13, 2021
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Costello announces effort to repeal SB 91

Sen. Mia Costello announced today she will introduce a bill to repeal SB 91, the criminal justice reform bill that is being widely blamed for a crime wave across Alaska.

“While SB 91 was well-intentioned and well researched, my constituents, neighbors and friends are calling out for repeal of this bill,” Costello said. “A repeal bill is necessary. Every Alaskan is suffering from either a burglary, theft or threat of these crimes, or worse, making us feel unsafe in our own homes and neighborhoods.”

“We need to start fresh with a clean slate and move forward in a way that protects Alaskans. We’re not going to have a productive conversation if we are trying to untangle SB 91.”

Costello, who represents District K, which is West Anchorage, chairs the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee. She was a cosponsor of the omnibus bill.

Alaska’s bill resembles laws passed in Texas, which pioneered criminal justice reform. There, crime has started to go down, as the state spends money on data-driven methods that reducing crime. SB 91 has been in effect for a little more than one year, but Alaskans are experiencing an unprecedented crime wave.

The special session that will convene on October 23 will take up SB 54, which toughens penalties that were loosened by SB 91 for some less serious crimes.

SB 91 adopted evidence-based pretrial reforms, including the following elements from the UAA Justice Center summary of SB 91:

Risk-Based Release Decision-Making

Release decisions are made based on a defendant’s risk of re-offending, which is determined by using a screening mechanism:

Defendants fall into three categories:

  • Required release on personal recognizance or unsecured bond: Low- and moderate-risk defendants charged with non-violent, non-DUI misdemeanors; low-risk defendants charged with non-violent, non-DUI class C felonies.
  • Presumption of release on personal recognizance or unsecured bond, which can be overcome if the judge finds that monetary bail is the only way to reasonably assure court appearance and public safety: Defendants charged with DUI; low- and moderate-risk defendants charged with failure to appear or violation of release conditions; high-risk defendants charged with a non-violent misdemeanor; moderate- and high-risk defendants charged with a non-violent class C felony; and all other defendants assessed as low-risk for pretrial failure.
  • Monetary bail may be ordered: All other defendants, which includes any moderate- and high-risk defendant charged with a DV [domestic violence], or sex offense or higher-level felony.  In all cases, the courts may order additional, non-monetary release conditions, including complying with pretrial supervision, so long as they are the least restrictive conditions necessary to assure court appearance and public safety.

Failure to Appear and Violation of Conditions of Release (VCOR)

Failure to Appear is now an arrestable violation, unless the defendant fails to appear for more than 30 days or in order to avoid prosecution, in which case it remains a misdemeanor or Class C Felony.

Violation of Conditions of Release is now an arrestable violation. Under SB 91, failure to appear and violation of conditions result in arrest, revoking bail, conducting a new pretrial risk assessment, and then either detaining the individual in prison or releasing the person with greater restrictions or conditions.

Felony Theft Threshold

SB 91 increases the threshold value for theft related offenses from $750 to $1,000 and requires the level to be adjusted every five years to account for inflation.

Shoplifting

SB 91 eliminates use of incarceration as a sanction for theft under $250 (first two offenses), and limits the use of incarceration to 5 days suspended imprisonment and six months of probation for subsequent shoplifting offenses.

Controlled Substances

SB 91 changed consequences for having controlled substances:

It reduces the classification of possession offenses for all controlled substances except GHB [gamma-hydroxybutyric acid] to a Class A Misdemeanor and eliminates active prison time for the first two misdemeanor possession offenses.

It reduces the penalty for commercial offenses relating to less than 1 gram of a IA substance or 2.5 grams of IIA or IIIA controlled substances to a Class C Felony, and more than 1 gram of a IA controlled substance to a Class B Felony.

Traffic Offenses

Senate Bill 91 includes the following policy changes related to traffic offenses:

Removes the mandatory minimum for first time DUI-related DWLS [Driving With License Suspended] offenders and reduces the mandatory minimum for second time DUI-related DWLS offenders to 10 days.

Reduces the penalty for non-DUI-related DWLS offenses from a misdemeanor to an infraction.

Requires first-time DUI offenders to serve a mandatory term of electronic monitoring. If this is unavailable, imprisonment is determined by the Department of Corrections.

 [Read a comprehensive summary of SB 91s at the UAA Justice Center]

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Get it done! How can we help? This puts Alaskans at a horrible risk.

  • “There, crime has started to go down, as the state spends money on data-driven methods that reducing crime” HaHa, I don’t see our state spending money on anything here that helps the people of Alaska. All they want to do is take, take, take, and run everyone who isn’t rich into the ground!

  • Thank you

  • This crime wave has been around long before SB91 ever made it’s way to the Governer’s desk for his signature. Mia quite simply is out of touch with the reality that most working Alaskans face each day. How about supporting funding for more prosecutors so the cops have at least a shot at actually getting a person prosecuted ? Dan Sullivan certainly didn’t help things by defunding the anti-gang unit at APD, hell, one could easily lay this crime wave at the feet of Danny Boy, it was under his leadership where we had officers running rogue, covering up the crimes of their National Guard buddies. Good riddance to Sullivan.

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