Appeal from the Superior Court, Third Judicial District, Kenai, Charles T. Huguelet, Judge. Trial Court No. 3KN-11-2021 CR.
Tracey Wollenberg, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Alaska Public Defender Agency, Anchorage, for the Appellant.
Eric A. Ringsmuth, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Criminal Appeals, Anchorage, and Craig W. Richards, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.
Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, Allard, Judge, and Hanley, District Court Judge.[*]
Wilbert Paul Bowlin was convicted of second-degree assault, a class B felony, following an altercation with his wife. Bowlin appealed his conviction to this Court, and he asked the superior court to release him on bail pending resolution of that appeal.
The superior court denied Bowlin's request for a bail hearing, concluding that Bowlin was ineligible for bail release under AS 12.30.040(b)(3) because he had a prior felony conviction within ten years of his conviction in this case. Under AS 12.30.040(b)(3), a person is ineligible for bail pending appeal " if the person has been convicted of an offense that is ... a class B felony [and] the person has been convicted within the previous 10 years of a felony."
Bowlin argues that the superior court erred in denying his request for a bail hearing. He argues that the ten-year look back in AS 12.30.040(b)(3) should be calculated from the date he filed his motion for bail release -- not from the date of his conviction of a class B felony.
The bail statute does not explain what precisely the legislature meant by " within the previous 10 years." We conclude -- after reading the statute in a common-sense manner, with an eye to the legislature's purpose in enacting the statute -- that the legislature intended the ten-year look back to be calculated from the date of the defendant's conviction of a class B felony.
Prior to 2010, a defendant convicted of a class B or class C felony was ineligible for release pending appeal if the defendant had a certain type of serious prior felony conviction ( i.e., a stalking conviction or an unclassified, class A, or sexual felony conviction), regardless of the date of the prior conviction. But in Bourdon v. State, we ruled that this portion of the bail statute violated equal protection because it made any defendant convicted of a class B or class C felony who had a prior sexual felony conviction ineligible for bail release, while a defendant with a current sexual felony conviction was entitled to apply for bail. Because we could discern no rational basis for this distinction, we invalidated that portion of the statute.
In 2010, as part of a larger bill aimed at streamlining bail release procedures, the Alaska Legislature rewrote this portion of the bail statute, in part to address our equal protection concern. The 2010 amendment made all defendants convicted of a sexual felony ineligible for bail release, and redefined the category of class B felony offenders ineligible for bail release to include those
" convicted within the previous 10 years of [any] ...