Dunleavy offers bills to tighten criminal laws in Alaska

A man talks next to a flag.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy at a news conference last year. (Matthew Faubion / Alaska Public Media)

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Friday introduced three public safety bills designed to help crime victims and make it easier to prosecute offenders.

“We must get the violent offenders off the streets. We must reduce the demand side of human and sex trafficking. And we must protect the rights of victims,” Dunleavy said at a news conference in Anchorage.

The bills propose several nuts-and-bolts changes to criminal statutes with a focus on prosecuting domestic violence and sexual assault as well as trafficking. One bill would increase the jail terms for people convicted of paying for sex.

“We’re going to follow the mandatory minimums that we use in DUI law,” said Deputy Attorney General John Skidmore. “A first offense: 72 hours. A second offense within five years: 20 days. If you get a third offense, within five years, that purchase of sex from somebody else becomes a (class) C felony.”

People who buy sex while reckless to whether they’re exploiting a victim of sex trafficking could also be charged with a felony, Skidmore said.

Other parts of the bills close loopholes. One would make it a crime to “to walk up and surprise somebody, to grab their genitals through the clothing,” Skidmore said. Under current law, he said, that behavior isn’t criminal unless it involves force.

The bills are part of Dunleavy’s “People First Initiative.”

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In much of rural Alaska, the problem isn’t so much the law itself as the lack of enforcement. The bills don’t include increased funding for additional officers or prosecutors. Dunleavy said he doesn’t know yet how much it would cost to make these changes or whether they would require more state personnel to implement.

The bills will go to the Alaska Legislature for consideration.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.

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