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Governor Strengthens Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Laws

May 14, 2010, AnchorageAlaska – Continuing toward his goal of ending Alaska’s epidemic of sexual assault and domestic violence within a decade, Governor Sean Parnell today signed three pieces of legislation aimed at breaking the cycle of abuse. The governor signed Senate Bill 222, House Bill 324, and Senate Bill 110 at the Alaska Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory in Anchorage.

“Domestic violence and sexual assault gravely injure our citizens and families at an alarming rate,” Governor Parnell said. “With harsher penalties for those who abuse, and increased awareness and support for those who have been harmed, we are taking the first of many steps to end the scourge that has damaged our state for far too long.”

Senate Bill 222, sponsored by the governor, better protects children and all assault victims. The bill toughens laws on child pornography by giving law enforcement more tools to pursue those engaged in viewing and distributing child pornography. It provides that a person convicted of possession or distribution of child pornography or human trafficking may not be given a suspended sentence. SB 222 will also grant more discretion in sentencing defendants. Specifically, a judge could increase a sentence above the usual range if the defendant knew that the victim was vulnerable as a result of having consumed alcohol or drugs.

SB 222 creates a Class A misdemeanor for offensive touching that does not rise to the level of sexual assault. The legislation also makes it a Class C felony to intentionally access child pornography on a computer.

House Bill 324, sponsored by the governor, enhances crime victims’ rights and improves the quality of law enforcement work in criminal prosecutions. HB 324 would also change from 24 hours to 48 hours the deadline for bringing a person before a judicial officer after arrest, with the goal of allowing prosecutors lengthier contemplation of appropriate charges and arguments for bail restrictions.

Significant provisions of HB 324 require persons charged with an unclassified or Class A felony and certain other crimes to bear the burden of proving that conditions or bail amounts are sufficient to protect the public and reasonably ensure their appearance in court. The bill would also prohibit a court from releasing a defendant found guilty of a sexual felony pending imposition of sentence or an appeal.

Senate Bill 110, sponsored by Senator Hollis French, is a product of a bipartisan effort with the Parnell administration. SB 110 sets new standards for DNA evidence retention, which could assist in cold case prosecutions. Procedures for seeking post-conviction relief were adopted from a bill introduced by Governor Parnell. Additionally, SB 110 will improve the laws relating to the DNA databank and establish a task force to review issues related to evidence retention.

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