Attorney General Sullivan Hails Passage of Major Crime Bills
Legislation Advances Governor's 10-Year Plan Against Sexual Assault
Anchorage, Alaska - Attorney General Dan Sullivan welcomed final action by the Legislature this weekend on four major criminal justice bills that are part of Governor Parnell's 10-year plan to end the epidemic of domestic violence and sexual assault in Alaska.
"The governor put forward an ambitious legislative package as part of our comprehensive strategy to end this scourge against our women and children, and the Legislature strongly supported these important initiatives, which will clearly help keep Alaskans safer," Sullivan said.
The bills are:
• Changes in crimes and sentences involving sexual assault and domestic violence. The bill prohibits suspended imposition of sentences for people convicted of human trafficking, possession or distribution of child pornography, and distribution of indecent materials to minors. It would be against the law not just to possess child pornography but also to access it on a computer with the intention of viewing it.
Sentences for sex offenses could be increased through new "aggravating factors," including the defendant's knowledge that the victim had consumed drugs or alcohol, or a previous dating relationship with the victim. It strengthens the state's ability to prosecute sex offenders who fail to register.
• A major revision of bail laws. This bill makes a presumption that defendants accused of serious crimes such as felony sexual assault are a danger to the community and to the victims, and that bail should be set appropriately. This also applies to a defendant charged with domestic violence who has been convicted of domestic violence within the five preceding years.
Once convicted of sex-related felonies, perpetrators could not be released pending sentencing or an appeal. The bill also allows more time before a defendant's first appearance in court for the police to investigate and for the prosecutor to make a better-informed charging decision, present stronger bail arguments, and contact the victim so that the victim may be present at the bail hearing.
• DNA testing. Senator Hollis French authored a bill that requires municipal police departments, courts and state agencies to retain DNA evidence both for post-conviction testing and cold case prosecution. The governor's bill adopting detailed procedures for the post-conviction testing of DNA to determine whether a person was wrongly convicted was included in Sen. French's bill.
• The Alaska Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory in Anchorage. The state will use general funds to finance the $76 million lab, which will expedite the processing of a large backlog of evidence in criminal cases. The new lab will help solve more crimes, including cold cases.
In addition, the Legislature also created the position of coordinator of domestic violence and sexual assault response and prevention efforts, which will be located in the governor's office.
"Government alone cannot solve Alaska's enormous domestic violence and sexual assault problem, but this legislation gives us more tools to effectively address these challenges," the attorney general said. "I'd like to thank my team at the Department of Law for the countless hours they spent researching and drafting these bills, refining them, and testifying before the Legislature. Rick Svobodny, Anne Carpeneti and Sue McLean are skilled and dedicated public servants, and their efforts were key in getting this legislation passed."
For more information, contact Assistant Attorney General Anne Carpeneti at (907) 465-4037.
Governor Parnell's 10-year plan to end the epidemic of domestic violence and sexual assault can be found here: http://www.law.alaska.gov/pdf/civil/10yrPlan.pdf