Measure would make crime pay even less

Posted: Tuesday, March 26, 2002

JUNEAU -- Fines for everything from murder to shoplifting could be going up.

A bill raising maximum financial penalties for all types of crimes passed the state Senate on Monday, despite skepticism expressed by a couple of senators.

Sen. Dave Donley, R-Anchorage, said Alaska's criminal fines haven't changed in almost a quarter century.

''I think after 24 years it's reasonable to increase fines,'' Donley said.

Donley is co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which introduced Senate Bill 339.

The measure raises the maximum fine from $75,000 to $500,000 for murder, attempted murder, first-degree sexual assault, first-degree sexual abuse of a minor, kidnapping and first-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance.

Committing a class A felony could yield a fine of $250,000, a class B felony could cost $100,000 and a class C felony $50,000. Currently, the maximum fine for A, B and C felonies is $50,000.

The fines for class A and B misdemeanors would be doubled to $10,000 and $2,000 respectively, and the fine for a violation would go from $300 to $500.

Sen. Georgianna Lincoln, D-Rampart, was concerned the measure had been referred to only the Finance Committee and had not undergone the scrutiny of the Judiciary Committee.

She questioned how successful the state is in collecting fines for serious crimes at the current level.

Failure to pay a fine could be a probation violation, she said, and wondered whether that would raise the state's costs.

And she expressed concern about how higher fines would affect a criminal's family.

Lincoln said she hoped the measure isn't being promoted as a way to close a state budget gap.

''I just don't see that that would happen,'' she said.

Donley said he did not know what current collection rates are, but added that is not relevant because the measure does not require judges to charge higher fines.

It simply raises the maximum allowed.

If only one very wealthy person commits murder or kidnapping, ''it may be very useful to have this statute in place,'' Donley said.

The measure passed 17-2, with Senators Lincoln and Bettye Davis, D-Anchorage, voting no.

Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, gave notice he may ask that his vote be reconsidered Wednesday.

If the outcome doesn't change, the measure would then go to the House.

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