Local criminal justice attorneys explain HB 49

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) HB 49 was signed into law by Governor Mike Dunleavy in July replacing SB 91, a controversial crime bill passed by former Governor Bill Walker. The bill aimed to help reduce crime rates and bring harsher punishment to offenders. But what does the bill actually do? "I think we are kind of going back to where we were largely speaking with a lot of the sentencing structures that are now in place under HB 49 it's almost back to where it was before SB 91,” said Fairbanks District Attorney Joe Dallaire. "I'd say that in some fairly substantial ways, HB 49 kind of reverted the criminal laws back to what they were before SB 91," said Supervising Attorney for the Fairbanks Public Defenders Office, Justin Racette. What exactly changed? "One of the things SB 91 changed was that simple possession of methamphetamine or opiates was a misdemeanor and now it is possible for you to be charged with a felony," Racette said. Racette also said that it also raised bail requirements to make it more difficult to post bail. According to Dallaire the bill also gives judges the ability to sentence offenders to more time in jail. "Generally speaking our sentencing options decreased in terms of length of incarceration authorized by statute under SB 91 and now largely they have all gone back up under HB 49." These changes lead to more severe punishments.

HB 49 was signed into law by Governor Mike Dunleavy in July replacing SB 91, a controversial crime bill passed by former Governor Bill Walker. The bill aimed to help reduce crime rates and bring harsher punishment to offenders. (John Dougherty/KTVF)

"Committing crime here in Alaska now carries with it a harsher incarceration potential." We spoke with Governor Dunleavy who said the bill is a good start, but there are still things that need to be done to help lower crime rates in Alaska. "We now have to look at things like reentry programs for those that were convicted of crimes and substance abuse aversion programs for those that are addicted to substances," Dunleavy said.

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