Parnell unveils bills to slow assault rate

One measure would make release of crime suspects more difficult

Posted: Tuesday, January 19, 2010

ANCHORAGE - Gov. Sean Parnell on Monday unveiled four proposed bills to address Alaska's high rates of sexual and domestic assault, including a measure making it more difficult for suspects to be released.

"Last month, I promised Alaskans that we would take every step necessary to move this state out of our shameful first-place ranking among the states in this terrible category," Parnell said in a news release. The 2010 legislative session begins today.

Parnell proposed a revision of bail laws that would include a presumption that defendants accused of serious crimes such as felony sexual assault are a danger to the community and to the victims. The accused could overcome the presumption with a preponderance of evidence, Parnell said.

Bail also would be tougher for defendants charged with domestic violence if they had been convicted of the same crime within the five preceding years. Under the measure, once convicted of sex-related felonies, perpetrators could not be released from jail until sentencing or an appeal.

The bill also allows more time before a defendant's first appearance in court for the police to investigate and for the prosecutor to make a better-informed charging decision, present stronger bail arguments, and contact the victim so the person may attend the bail hearing, Parnell said.

A second bill would prohibit suspended sentences for people convicted of human trafficking, possession or distribution of child pornography, and distribution of indecent materials to minors.

A third bill would set out specific procedures for post-conviction DNA testing. The bill requires police departments, courts and state agencies to retain DNA evidence for post-conviction testing and cold case prosecution.

Parnell also proposed $75 million for the Alaska Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory in Anchorage.

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