In Alaska, felonies are crimes punishable by terms in state prison. Felonies may be unclassified or designated as class A, B, or C. Less serious crimes (misdemeanors) are punishable by terms of one year or less in local jail. Read on to learn how Alaska classifies and punishes felony offenses.
Alaska divides felony offenses into three classes—classes A, B, and C. Felony offenses that don't fall under one of these classes are considered unclassified felonies, which are some of the state's most serious crimes.
Unclassified felonies specify a sentence in the law, rather than falling under a classification. Examples of unclassified crimes include murder, attempted murder, and sexual assault. First-degree murder carries a punishment of 30 to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. Some first-degree murder offenses impose a mandatory 99-year prison term, such as murder of a police officer or a second murder conviction.
Under Alaska's laws, a class B felony is punishable by up to 10 years' imprisonment and a fine of up to $100,000. First-degree burglary, extortion, bribery, and distribution of child pornography are examples of class B felonies.
A class C felony conviction is the least serious type of felony conviction in Alaska and can result in a prison term of up to five years and a fine of up to $50,000. First-degree stalking, theft of a firearm, coercion, rioting, and evidence tampering are examples of class C felonies.
(Alaska Stat. §§ 11.81.250, 12.55.035, 12.55.125 (2023).)
In Alaska, each felony conviction carries a maximum sentence term, as well as a presumptive term. The presumptive term represents the sentence the judge should typically order unless there are aggravating or mitigating factors that support a different sentence.
Maximum terms. The maximum terms by felony class are listed above. For example, the maximum sentence for a class A felony is 20 years. Judges can't order sentences above the maximum term. Not all offenders receive the maximum term. In fact, many will receive a lower sentence term unless they have a long criminal history.
Presumptive terms. Presumptive terms are sentences the "average defendant" should receive based on their criminal history and the circumstances of the crime. For class A felonies, presumptive sentences start at 4 years and go up from there. For instance, a defendant convicted of a class A felony who has no other felony convictions may receive the presumptive sentence of 4 to 7 years. If that same defendant has a prior conviction, the presumptive sentence increases to between 10 and 14 years. Each felony class contains presumptive terms. (Alaska Stat. § 12.55.125 (2023).)
Aggravating and mitigating factors. The law permits judges to go above or below the presumptive term if there are aggravating or mitigating factors. Examples of aggravating factors that may justify going above the presumptive sentence include targeting a vulnerable victim, committing the crime for the benefit of a gang, or committing the crime with deliberate cruelty. Mitigating factors that may support a lower sentence include playing a minor role in an offense, being a youthful defendant subject to others' influences, or making an effort to fully compensate the victim for damage or harm done. (Alaska Stat. § 12.55.155 (2023).)
The law sets limits on how far below or above the presumptive term the judge can go. As noted above, sentences can't exceed the maximum allowed by law.
Judges will review the defendant's crime and criminal history when deciding a sentence. The judge will also usually hear from the prosecutor, defense attorney, probation, and victims.
In addition to (or, sometimes, in lieu of) incarceration, Alaska judges may impose any of the following in a felony sentence:
If a judge allows a defendant to serve their sentence in the community, the judge might impose conditions such as driving with an ignition interlock, forfeiting firearms, or being subject to a restraining order. (Alaska Stat. § 12.55.015 (2023).)
Depending on the offense, a judge might hold off on sending a defendant to prison and instead let the defendant serve all or part of their sentence on probation. Felony probation can last up to 25 years for sex offenses and 15 years for all other offenses.
During probation, a defendant must typically report to a probation officer on a regular basis and comply with all other probation terms, such as remaining law abiding, abstaining from drugs or alcohol, staying away from victims, attending counseling, or forfeiting weapons. Failure to abide by the terms can result in modification, extension, or revocation of probation. (Alaska Stat. § 12.55.090 (2023).)
Prosecutors must file charges within a set amount of time of the crime occurring. If they don't, the defendant can ask the judge to dismiss the charges. For most felonies, the prosecution has 5 to 10 years to file charges in Alaska. However, there's no time limit for most unclassified felonies, as well as many class A and B felonies involving sex offenses against minors. These felonies can be charged at any time. (Alaska Stat. § 12.10.010 (2023).)
If you're facing a criminal investigation or charges for a felony (or any crime), talk to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A defense attorney can help explain the criminal legal system, protect your rights, and zealously defend your case.