Alaska Legislature

Here are the highlights of the new compromise anti-crime law

JUNEAU — The new compromise anti-crime legislation advancing in the House of Representatives this week is a big deal, but it’s not easy to read.

In 67 dense pages of technical language, House Bill 49 makes extensive changes to Alaska’s criminal law, from the smallest B misdemeanors to the biggest A felonies.

Thanks to a summary provided by the Alaska Department of Law, and a quick synopsis of amendments approved Monday, we’ve compiled a list of the highlights. This is not a comprehensive list, merely a look at some of the biggest changes.

HB 49 matters because the governor made crime-fighting efforts a priority this year. In his State of the State, he declared a “war on criminals” and followed that by introducing four pieces of legislation.

[Compromise crime bill heads to House floor with governor’s tentative support]

Some in the Legislature were reluctant to accept the governor’s proposals as written, but the governor has insinuated that he will call lawmakers into special session if his bills — or something similar — don’t pass this year.

“We’ll use every tool available to us to make Alaska safer,” Dunleavy said when asked Monday whether he would call lawmakers into special session if anti-crime legislation fails to pass.

Changes to sentencing

• All Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in custody. Under current law, the maximum sentence for some Class A misdemeanors is 30 days.

• The maximum penalty for most Class B misdemeanors is 30 days, up from 10 days.

• Sentences for Class A and Class B felonies, more serious crimes, are increased by one year.

• Any prior felony will increase the sentence for someone convicted of a sex crime.

Theft

• The threshold between felony and misdemeanor theft will no longer change with inflation. It’ll stay at $750. Inflation adjustments are also eliminated for the other boundaries between different grades of theft

Electronic monitoring

• It’s a Class C felony to tamper with or remove an electronic monitoring ankle monitor or wristband.

Pretrial changes

• Alaskans accused of theft, auto theft, or a range of other serious crimes (including sex crimes) cannot receive credit against their sentences for time spent on electronic monitoring before trial.

• Judges “shall consider” a formula-based risk-assessment score used to determine whether to release people before trial, but they are not required to use that tool.

Violating conditions of release

• It’s a Class A misdemeanor to violate conditions of release for a felony, and a Class B misdemeanor for violating conditions of release for a misdemeanor.

Threats

• If someone threatens to carry out an attack (like a school shooting or a bomb threat) but doesn’t do it, they can still be charged with terroristic threatening, a Class C felony, under a new definition of the law.

Drugs

• Someone’s first two arrests for drugs possession are Class A misdemeanors; their third arrest would be a felony.

• There’s no longer a minimum amount of drugs needed to charge someone with drug dealing, and drug dealing has been made a higher-level felony.

• Someone who manufactures methamphetamine near children can get a tougher prison sentence than a normal meth maker.

Driving

• Someone with a clean record for 10 years after getting a felony DUI can have their driver’s license restored as long as their felony DUI didn’t injure someone.

• Driving with a suspended license is a misdemeanor instead of a violation in most cases.

Sex offenses

• Anyone required by another state to register as a sex offender is also required to register in Alaska if they move here.

• “Indecent viewing” is a new sex crime that happens if someone sets up a camera to illicitly watch someone in a changing room or bathroom. Viewing an image taken by such a camera is a misdemeanor. Actually setting up the camera is a felony.

Firearms

• The Alaska Court System is required to send all information about involuntary mental health commitments to the Department of Public Safety to keep firearms away from the mentally ill.

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