The 27th Alaska State Legislature, 2011 - 2012||
Sponsor Statement: House Bill 171
Arrests For Misdemeanors
“An Act relating to arrests without warrants by peace officers for assault in the fourth degree or an ordinance with elements similar to assault in the fourth degree under certain circumstances.”
Posted: April 14, 2011 : v27-LS0219-I.A
Bill Version: CSHB 171(JUD) AM
Status: (S) JUD : 2011-04-13
CS HB 171 will allow peace officers to arrest without a warrant for misdemeanor assaults that occur out of sight of the officer. Before an arrest can be made, the officer must first establish probable cause. In current law, arrests without warrant are allowed on felony offenses, and in limited misdemeanor offenses surrounding domestic violence and driving while intoxicated, as well as crimes committed in the presence of an officer. In addition, an arrest can be made on a misdemeanor crime by citizen arrest.
In testimony before the House Judiciary committee, officers highlighted restrictions in the current law that handicap officers in dealing with unsafe individuals. One story came from a Juneau police officer who arrived at a scene after a vicious assault. This incident was witnessed by multiple people who had identified the perpetrator. However, due to fear of retaliation, no one at the scene would sign a citizen arrest form. Without the warrant, no arrest was made. It was learned later that this individual continued his destructive behavior assaulting numerous people over the next 24 hours, including a person who came into the police station with both eyes swollen shut.
Forty-two states have relied on exceptions on a variety of statutory exclusion of the requirement for an arrest warrant for misdemeanor offenses committed outside the presence of law enforcement. Several states have enacted statutes to be directed at crimes where the risk in the absence of an arrest is relatively high. For example, Nevada, New York, Ohio and South Dakota allow warrantless arrest for the most serious misdemeanors and Colorado, Missouri and New York allow arrests for any misdemeanor violation.
The sponsor recognizes the sensitivity to any expansion of warrantless arrest. However, the limited scope of this allowance specific to assault cases will improve Alaska Statute and will help to keep the general public secure. The legislation was requested by the Juneau Police Department and is endorsed by law enforcement agencies across the state.