FAIRBANKS, Alaska - The criminal justice reform bill SB-91 has the Alaska legislature and residents talking about possible changes to the bill that was originally signed by former Governor Bill Walker back in 2016.
The Bill was intended to reduce the number of inmates in Alaska's prisons without compromising public safety, while also cutting corrections costs. .
Now new changes have now been made in the legislature's third attempt to modify the Bill.
On Thursday House Bill 49 passed by a vote of 24 to 14.
According to the press release by the Alaska House Majority,
“Alaskans spoke loud and clear, and we responded by repealing and replacing Senate Bill 91,” said Rep. Tammie Wilson (R-North Pole). “Everything in House Bill 49 is tough on criminals and particularly targets repeat offenders.”
“A key tenet of criminal justice reform is continually looking for improvements to our laws and ways to make Alaska’s communities safer. This legislation takes many positive steps in the right direction,” said Rep. Matt Claman (D-Anchorage), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee. “In addition to this bill, we continue to work on other proposed policy changes, and the House Majority budget invests in public safety and continues our commitment to making wise use of public safety funds.”
Below are some of the most significant changes H.B. 49 would make to state law, if the bill passes the Senate as-is and receives final approval from the governor:
The presumptive sentencing ranges for Class A and Class B felony offenses would increase, as would the maximum sentence for all Class A and Class B misdemeanors.
The mandatory probation sentence for first- and second-time drug convictions is abolished. For the most dangerous illegal drugs like heroin, other opioids, and methamphetamine, judges would be able to sentence first- and second-time drug possession offenders up to one year in jail. A third drug possession conviction would result in a felony conviction punishable by up to 2 years in prison. Any drug offender who is trafficking or distributing these types of drugs is subject to much higher felony penalties and longer prison sentences.
At the request of law enforcement officials, a new crime is established to help combat motor vehicle thefts: Possession of Motor Vehicle Theft Tools. In order to be convicted, the defendant would have to both possess tools commonly used to steal a vehicle and demonstrate an intent to steal a vehicle.
Police and prosecutors would be allowed to aggregate the amounts stolen by a defendant within a 6-month period in order to hold serial thieves accountable.
Under current law, not all sex offenders who are registered in another jurisdiction are required to enter the Alaska sex offender registry when they move here. H.B. 49 closes that loophole. The bill also increases the maximum period of probation for sex offenders and bars sex offenders from receiving good time credit while in prison or on parole.
The crime of second- and third-degree Escape is expanded to make it a felony to cut off an ankle monitor while on house arrest.
Penalties for Failure to Appear are increased: defendants who fail to appear in court while facing a felony charge will receive an additional felony charge, and those facing a misdemeanor charge who fail to appear in court will receive an additional misdemeanor charge.
Defendants would no longer be eligible to receive credit for time served for pre-trial electronic monitoring.
A new felony crime is established so individuals who solicit or produce indecent pictures of minors are held accountable.
Timely testing of sexual assault examination kits is required.
Release-from-prison plans are required for all defendants who serve 90 days or more. The plans will be required to address substance abuse treatment plans and re-entry services.
The presumption that courts will follow the pre-trial risk assessment analysis is repealed and replaced with a requirement that courts to consider the pre-trial risk assessment analysis in making bail release decisions.
The incentive for earned compliance credit is changed to 30 days (served) for 10 days (earned) for good conduct on probation and parole.
If the bill passes the Senate "as-is," it must receive final approval from the Governor before the proposed changes are made to state law.