Bill would add FASD as mitigating factor in criminal sentencing

A bill that would allow judges to consider FASD as a mitigating factor in criminal sentencing had a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee today (Monday).

FASD stands for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. It refers to the range of conditions experienced by children whose mothers drank alcohol while pregnant. Many of the disorders can impair brain function, including how the person with FASD uses judgment and processes information.

Senate Bill 151 gives judges the option of considering FASD as a mitigating factor if it’s clear the defendant’s condition significantly affected their conduct. But Anchorage Republican Kevin Meyer – the bill’s sponsor – says it’s not a get out of jail free card for people with FASD.

“What we see is, a lot of times, the folks who suffer from this, a lot of times we end up throwing them in our corrections system, and then that become their way of life,” says Meyer. “So, what we’re saying is that, hey, maybe a long jail sentence for some of the crimes isn’t the right thing to help these folks.”

Meyer says the bill helps accomplish what Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Walter Carpeneti and other legal experts have told lawmakers about the need for more flexibility in the state’s legal system.

The Senate Finance Committee held the bill for another hearing.