Petition for Review from the District Court No. 3AN-16-2755
CR, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Douglas Kossler,
E. Stanley, Assistant Municipal Prosecutor, and William D.
Falsey, Municipal Attorney, Anchorage, for the Petitioner.
appearance for the Respondent.
McFarland, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner,
Public Defender, Anchorage, for amicus curiae Alaska Public
Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, and Allard and Wollenberg,
defendant in this case, Wayne Edward Beezley, stands
convicted of the Anchorage municipal offense of reckless
driving. Under the Anchorage Municipal Code, a
person convicted of reckless driving may be imprisoned for up
to 1 year. This 1 -year maximum penalty was
established at a time when the maximum penalty provided for
class A misdemeanors under state law was also 1 year's
imprisonment. See the pre-2016 version of AS
2016, the Alaska legislature modified AS 12.55.135(a) so that
not all class A misdemeanor offenders are subject to the
1-year maximum sentence. Under the current version of the
statute, the 1-year maximum sentence applies only if one or
more of the criteria listed in AS 12.55.135(a)(1) are
If none of these criteria are met, then the maximum sentence
for a class A misdemeanor is 30 days' imprisonment.
See AS 12.55.135(a)(2).
essence, the legislature created a presumptive sentencing
ceiling of 30 days' imprisonment for most class A
misdemeanors - a ceiling that cannot be exceeded unless the
State proves one of the factors listed in subsection (a)(1)
of the statute.
though the municipal offense of reckless driving is not a
"class A misdemeanor", the district court ruled
that the presumptive 30-day sentencing ceiling codified in AS
12.55.135(a) governs Beezley's sentencing for reckless
driving under municipal law. That is, the district court
ruled that Beezley's sentence could not exceed 30
days' imprisonment unless the Municipality proved one of
the factors set forth in AS 12.55.135(a)(1).
Municipality has petitioned us to review and reverse the
district court's ruling. When Beezley's
court-appointed attorneys, the Denali Law Group, filed no
response to the Municipality's petition, we invited the
Alaska Public Defender Agency to enter this case as an
amicus curiae to argue Beezley's position. And
because the district court's rationale apparently applies
to State prosecutions for reckless driving under AS
28.35.400, we invited the State of Alaska to file an
amicus curiae brief as well - an invitation that the
reasons explained in this opinion, we agree with the district
court that the presumptive 30-day sentencing ceiling
established in AS 12.55.135(a) applies to a sentencing for
reckless driving under Anchorage municipal law.
more detailed examination of the legal background of this
explained earlier, the legislature has amended AS
12.55.135(a) so that not all defendants convicted of a class
A misdemeanor are subject to a 1-year maximum term of
imprisonment. There is now a presumptive 30-day ceiling on
sentencing for most class A misdemeanors unless the State
proves one of the factors listed in subsection (a)(1) of the
problem in Beezley's case arises from the fact that AS
12.55.135(a) addresses only the penalties for misdemeanor
offenses that are classified as "class A"
misdemeanors, and there are many misdemeanors defined under
state and municipal law that have no classification.
the misdemeanor offenses defined in our state's criminal
code (Title 11 of the statutes) are explicitly designated as
either class A or class B misdemeanors, so the application of
AS 12.55.135(a) is clear with respect to these crimes: the
statute applies to class A misdemeanors, and it does not
apply to class B misdemeanors.
there are other misdemeanor offenses defined in titles
other than Title 11, and (as we are about to
explain) many of these misdemeanors are neither class A nor
class B. Instead, they are non-classified.
is a provision of the criminal code, AS 11.81.250(c), which
declares that a misdemeanor defined in a title of the
statutes other than Title 11 is deemed a class A misdemeanor
if the other title does not specify a penalty for that
11.81.250(c) does not cover the many misdemeanors in other
titles of the statutes which are not designated as class A or
class B, but which do have a specified penalty. For
instance, many misdemeanors defined in Title 28 of our
statutes (motor vehicles) are not designated as class A or
class B, but these misdemeanors have a specified penalty -
because Title 28 contains a general provision, AS 28.90.010,
which establishes the penalty for all violations of Title 28
(unless a different penalty is specified in the criminal
statute itself). The state offense of reckless driving, AS
28.35.400, falls within this non-classified category: it is
not designated as either a class A or class B misdemeanor,
but it has a specified penalty.
also AS 16.05.430, AS 16.05.665, AS 16.05.723, AS 16.05.783,
AS 16.05.831, and AS 16.05.905 - all of which specify
penalties for misdemeanor fish and game offenses, without
designating them as either class A or class B. These
offenses, too, are all non-classified misdemeanors.
Title 09 of the Anchorage Municipal Code contains numerous
offenses which carry penalties of up to 1 year's
imprisonment, but which are not designated as either class A
or class B ...