22nd Alaska State Legislature
Representative Kevin Meyer

Portrait of Representative Kevin Meyer, 111 K. Session:
State Capitol, Room 110
Juneau, AK 99801-1182
Phone: (907) 465-4945
Toll Free: (866) 465-4945
Fax: (907) 465-3476

716 W 4th Avenue, Suite 320
Anchorage, AK 99501-2133
Phone: (907) 269-0199
Fax: (907) 269-0197

Sponsor Statement for HB 405
Crimes On or Against State Vessels

An Act relating to the prosecution of criminal offenses committed on or against ferries and other watercraft owned or operated by the state; and providing for an effective date.
Released: April 24, 2002
Contact: Representative Kevin Meyer at (907) 465-4945

SCS HB 405 (JUD) gives the State jurisdiction on state owned or operated aircraft and watercraft even if the aircraft or watercraft is outside state airspace or waters.

Last year a young woman was sexually assaulted on a state ferry while it was traveling from Bellingham to Ketchikan. The assault occurred while the ferry was in Canadian waters. Under federal maritime law, the United States government has jurisdiction over crimes committed on United States vessels in Canadian waters.

The jurisdiction to prosecute the crime by the federal government is not exclusive. The State of Alaska may also prosecute the offense, as long as the state shows a sufficient connection between the offense and a valid state interest, and the federal government has not indicated intent to exercise exclusive authority over the offense.

In this particular situation, the District Attorney in Ketchikan presented the case to a grand jury and the grand jury indicted the man on two counts of felony sexual assault and four counts misdemeanor assault. However, the Superior Court dismissed the indictment, finding that without a statute specifically authorizing the state to prosecute under these circumstances, Alaska had no jurisdiction. The State is appealing that ruling.

The dismissal by the court is a concern because the crime is unlikely to be prosecuted by the federal government or the Canadian government. The federal government does not generally prosecute offenses such as sexual assault, and the Canadian government has little interest in pursuing charges involving an Alaska victim and defendant on an Alaska ferry.

SCS HB 405 (JUD) will eliminate the loophole that prevents the State from prosecuting such crimes in the future.

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