Petition for Hearing from the Court of Appeals of the State of Alaska, on Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Palmer, David L. Zwink, Judge. Superior Court No. 3PA-10-03464 CR
Mary A. Gilson, Assistant Attorney General, Anchorage, and Craig W. Richards, Attorney General, Juneau, for Petitioner.
Kelly Taylor, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for Respondent.
Before: Stowers, Chief Justice, Fabe, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices. [Winfree, Justice, not participating.]
Linden Fyfe was stopped by police while driving on a stretch of highway designated as a traffic safety corridor. He was charged and convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, a violation of AS 28.35.030. At sentencing the trial court imposed double the statutory minimum fine, relying on another statute, AS 28.90.030(a), that doubles "the fine, or maximum fine, " for any violation of a provision of Title 28 in a traffic safety corridor. The court of appeals reversed. It concluded that despite the statute's plain language, the legislature intended fines to be doubled only for non-criminal traffic offenses.
We disagree with the court of appeals' rationale, though not its mandate. We conclude that the contrary legislative history is not convincing enough to overcome the plain language of AS 28.90.030(a), and the statute therefore applies to both criminal and non-criminal traffic offenses under Title 28. But we also hold that the plain language of the statute precludes its application to minimum fines such as the one at issue here. On that ground we affirmthe court of appeals' decision to vacate Fyfe's fine and remand for imposition of the statutory minimum fine.
II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
A state trooper stopped Linden Fyfe on the Parks Highway after observing that Fyfe's vehicle was missing a muffler and the license plate was obscured. The trooper later testified that Fyfe was shaking, slurred his words, and smelled of alcohol. After a Datamaster breathalyzer test showed that Fyfe's blood alcohol level was 0.117%, he was charged with felony driving under the influence (DUI). At trial he raised the defense of necessity, testifying that he had to drive because his girlfriend's daughter, whom he had helped raise from infancy, had been admitted to the hospital after an apparent seizure. The jury rejected the defense and convicted him.
At sentencing the State relied on AS 28.90.030(a), which doubles "the fine, or maximum fine" for any violation of "a provision of this title" that occurs "within a highway work zone or traffic safety corridor." It was the State's position that the mandatory minimum fine for driving under the influence had to be doubled - from $10, 000 to $20, 000 - based on the uncontested fact that Fyfe's offense occurred on a stretch of highway designated as a traffic safety corridor. The superior court sentenced Fyfe to 20 months in prison with 16 months suspended and imposed a $20, 000 fine; it remarked, however, that it would have imposed a fine of half that amount if not for the statutory mandate.
Fyfe appealed his conviction to the court of appeals. He argued in part that the $20, 000 fine was illegal because the legislature did not intend to double the fine for felony driving under the influence in a traffic safety corridor. The court of appeals agreed and vacated the fine. It noted that although the plain language of AS 28.90.030(a) would seem to double fines for all offenses found in Title 28, Alaska's canons of statutory construction require that courts also consider legislative history. The court of appeals concluded that this history reveals a legislative intent to limit the fine-doubling provision to non-criminal traffic offenses, thus excluding criminal offenses like Fyfe's felony DUI.
The State filed a petition for hearing, asking us to review the court of appeals' interpretation of AS ...