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Bill Signed Into Law Toughening Up Penalties for Theft and Other Crimes



November 27, 2017
Monday PM

(SitNews) Anchorage, Alaska - Governor Bill Walker signed into law Senate Bill 54, the majority of which took effect at 12:01 a.m. today.

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"The passage of SB 54 helps to build a Safer Alaska, Governor Walker said. "While some portions of the legislation may need to be addressed by the court system, this law is an important first step in returning some important tools to the law enforcement community."

“Senate Bill 54 does many good things, including toughening up penalties for theft and other crimes that are making Alaskans feels less safe in their homes and businesses. The bill gives law enforcement many of the tools they asked for to respond to the current crime-wave, and it sends a clear message that criminal behavior in Alaska will not go unpunished,” said Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham).

Edgmon said, “I, like many of my colleagues, am troubled by the bill’s Constitutional issue, which the Legislature could have remedied had the Senate been willing to convene a conference committee. We now hope that the court system will be able to address the issue as quickly as possible without the need for another crime bill in the next legislative session.”

However, according to Representative Lora Reinbold (R- Eagle River, the Alaska Department of Law has stated that the arguments raised against SB 54, have already been defeated through past litigation, therefore the state would prevail if any unnecessary, frivolous constitutional challenges are forthcoming.

For more than a week the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska had been stirring up talk that a single amendment, put forward by Rep. Reinbold to increase penalties for Class C Felons (like those who steal vehicles, a firearm or sexually assault a minor in the third degree), should prevent SB 54 from becoming law. Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon released a statement echoing the ACLU.

Reinbold said earlier that it was clear now what was standing between SB 54 becoming law is the ACLU and the Speaker of the House, not his amendment. Reinbold said SB 54 needed to be signed without delay for it gives important tools back to prosecutors and law enforcement to hold criminals more accountable.

Reinbold said since the Alaska Senate adopted the House version of SB 54, the Speaker of the House dug in his heels against progression of the bill by holding unofficial House Floor sessions with the fantasy that work would resume on the bill. Edgmon's actions were supposedly tied to this idea that SB 54 was flawed but with these recent comments from the Department of Law said Reinbold, it’s clear there is no reason for him to have drug out the special session.

“I’m glad the Governor has communicated his intention to sign SB 54 into law. SB 54 makes some needed changes to SB 91 but the work needs to continue next session to strengthen Alaska’s criminal code. There should be no hold up with the Governor signing SB 54,” said Rep. Reinbold on November 11th, before the Governor signed the bill into law today.

Below are highlights of five major points in SB 54:

  • Class C Felonies - SB 54 changed the presumptive sentencing ranges. First offenses changed from a probationary sentence to a term of 0 to 2 years of jail. Second felony offenses changed from 1 to 3 years to 1 to 4 years. Third class C felony offenses remain unchanged. Due to these changes, courts should be more willing to hold offenders on bail for a first C felony conviction because the sentence can include active jail time.

  • Theft in the Fourth Degree - SB 54 created a new graduated sentencing structure for theft of property valued at less than $250. For a first conviction, a court is authorized to sentence a person for up to five days of jail time. For a second conviction, the sentence can be up to 10 days and for a third conviction, up to 15 days. On a fourth conviction, the offense is upgraded to a class A misdemeanor (theft in the third degree), which under most circumstances will be punishable by up to 30 days of jail time.

  • Violating Conditions of Release - SB 54 returned the offense to a misdemeanor, punishable with up to five days of jail time. Returning this offense to a misdemeanor clarifies for judges and law enforcement alike that a person may be arrested and held until bail is set on the new offense.

  • Mandatory Probation for Sex Offenders - SB 54 reestablished a mandatory period of probation for sex offenders. Unclassified felonies receive 15 years of probation, class A or B felonies receive 10 years of probation and class C felonies receive 5 years of probation.

  • Sex Trafficking Adjustments - SB 54 amended the statutes to ensure those who profit from other sex workers can be held accountable as sex traffickers.

On the Web:

Download & Read the Alaska Department of Law's review of the bill


Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


Source of News:

Office of the Governor

Office of the House Majority Coalition

Office of Rep. Reinbold

Alaska Department of Law



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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

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