Alaska is in the minority of states that apply felony charges based on a defendant's history of misdemeanor violations. This approach to the challenges of criminal recidivism, however, creates both constitutional and prudential problems. While Alaska enjoys considerable latitude in its sentencing policies, this form of misdemeanor reclassification raises concerns about proportionality under the Eighth Amendment, double jeopardy under the Fifth Amendment, and poses dilemmas for participants in the pleabargaining process. This Note examines these problems and proposes a graduated approach to sentencing enhancement. By increasing punishment gradually and preventing recidivist misdemeanants from crossing the misdemeanor-felony border as quickly, Alaska could secure the benefits of recidivism statutes while avoiding the constitutional and prudential concerns present in existing law.
Crossing the Line: An Analysis of Problems with Classifying Recidivist Misdemeanor Offenses as Felonies,
31 Alaska Law Review
Available at: http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/alr/vol31/iss1/5