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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.

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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