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Crime & Courts

Alaska Supreme Court says kids can face trial as adults for some DUI crimes

The Alaska Supreme Court has upheld the legality of a state law that allows young Alaskans to face trial as adults for misdemeanor drunken-driving crimes.

In a ruling published Friday, the five-member court split 3-2 in favor of the law, with the majority saying it does not violate the equal-protection clauses of the Alaska Constitution.

But justices Craig Stowers and Susan Carney dissented, saying that the current law requires more serious felony DUIs to stay in juvenile court. That creates a situation where a lesser crime could result in greater punishment. (Stowers retired last year but heard the case before leaving the bench.)

Justices Joel Bolger, Peter Maassen and Daniel Winfree voted for the majority, saying that the law represents a tempered “policy of deterrence.”

The law had been challenged by a Bethel woman who was convicted in district court of two misdemeanor DUI offenses that took place in 2011, when she was 14.

The woman was convicted in 2013 and sentenced to a variety of penalties, including 28 days in jail, with 25 suspended. With a court-appointed defense attorney, she escalated the case to the Court of Appeals, then to the state Supreme Court, which heard arguments in August 2018.

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