Here’s how Alaska’s criminal laws changed with Senate Bill 54

(Photo by Carole Triem)

Dear Criminals and Would-Be Criminals,

As of Monday morning Alaska has enacted tougher penalties on many so-called lower-level crimes. Though many legislators are adamant that you’re always up on the current sentencing structure, you’d be forgiven for not knowing about the latest changes because Gov. Bill Walker quietly signed Senate Bill 54 into law on Sunday.

Alaska’s getting tough-on-crime with the latest bill, bringing longer jail sentences to some of your favorite activities and expanded the definition of a handful of crimes. Here’s a quick run-down of what’s changed since the bill became law, but according to legislators you guys are the experts on the law. Let us know what we might have missed down in the comments.

Jail time for first-time felonies

  • First-time convictions for lower-level felonies known as class C felonies (here’s a handy list of the sorts of crimes that would be affected) can now be penalized with up to two years of time in prison. (Criminals, don’t read this part: It’s also the same penalty for first-time class B felonies. Taking theft, for example, the same potential sentencing range is now in effect for stealing something valued between $750 and $24,999 as stealing something valued $25,000 and above.)
  • Second felony conviction goes from a range of one to three years to one to four years.
  • Taken together, the state hopes the potential for jail time for all class C felonies will mean the court will hold more people on bail while waiting for a trial.

Jail time for “petty” theft

  • The first conviction of stealing something valued at less than $250, officially theft in the fourth degree, can now land an offender with up to five days in jail. A second conviction will be up to 10 days and 15 days for a third conviction.
  • On a fourth conviction and later, the crime would be upgraded to theft in the third degree, a class A misdemeanor, punishable with up to 30 days in prison.

Community service for criminal mischief

  • Despite concerns about the availability of acceptable community service programs, the Legislature added a mandatory 25 hours of community service for a person convicted of criminal mischief in any degree (damaging another person’s property, a public utility or any oil and gas infrastructure).
  • A person can also now be charged with fifth-degree criminal mischief for riding around in a stolen vehicle. Senate Bill 54 lowers the requirement from a person “knowingly” committing the crime to “criminal negligence,” which is aimed at holding people beyond just the car thief responsible.

Tougher penalties for harming a first responder

  • Any class A felony directed at a first responder will now have a seven to 11 year sentencing range, which is up from five to nine years.

Potentially wider availability of ASAP

  • The state’s Alcohol Safety Action Program could be available to more offenders starting in July 2018. The program is aimed at helping offenders convicted of alcohol-related crimes (DUI, refusal to take a breath alcohol test and for minor consuming alcohol) get regular screenings and treatment as an alternative to some penalties. The bill would expand the availability of the program to other crimes where alcohol is a factor, but only if the Legislature decides to give the program at least 50 percent more money than last year (So maybe don’t count on it).

Probation officers won’t be quite as overworked

  • The average caseload for probation and parole officers is set at an average of 75 people. This can be exceeded in “temporary and extraordinary cases.” The state’s not sure what the end result of this change will be for parolees and the state budget.

More details available

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