Blas introduces a bill to review criminal law in Guam statute

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Senator Frank Blas Jr. has introduced a bill that would create a formal commission to review current criminal laws within Guam statute to determine which laws are outdated, unnecessary, unclear, and/or overly broad.

“Criminal law is dynamic in and of itself,” Blas told PNC. “I think it’s a good time for us to review the different statutes and criminal procedures . . . and [to] see whether they continue to pass Judicial Munster, whether there are changes to the law based on Court Rulings.”

The commission would be made up of 9 members:

  • 3 members appointed by the Governor of Guam;
  • 2 members appointed by the Chief Justice of the Judiciary of Guam;
  • 2 members appointed by the Speaker of Guam Legislature; and
  • 2 members appointed by the Attorney General (AG) of Guam.
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The commission would have no power to repeal or amend those such laws. “I think it’s best that the subject matter experts, those individuals that not only just enforce the laws but also prosecute, and defend the law,” says Blas, “to take part in a review of the statutes that are contained in Guam Code Annotated and make recommendations to the Legislature on changes the feel is necessary.”

Should the bill pass, the commission would have at most a year to review these laws and statutes within Guam Code Annotated before submitting a formal review to the Guam Legislature.

The reason for the bill

Blas says that he was compelled to introduce this bill as he worked in law enforcement in the 80s and the 90s. “It was also based on conversations I’ve had over the last year with members of not just the Office of the Attorney General but also with the third branch of government: the judiciary,” he says.

There has been a rise in crime lately, says Blas, and he suggests that may be in part due to the breaking of outdated laws. For example, in Minnesota, it is still a misdemeanor to chase a greased pig, which was a 1971 law meant to penalize “contests and games involving cruelty to animals.”

Public sentiment and law are likely to maintain the prohibition of contests and games that encourage animal cruelty, but one may consider the law unnecessary.

Blas cites other examples within Guam Code Annotated, such as rules for dueling. “We still have laws with regard to the protection of our Angora goat and Cashmere sheep. When’s the last time you’ve seen an Angora goat or Cashmere sheep on Guam?

“Let’s look at the way the laws are written. . . . [What] may have been legal or procedurally correct 30, 40, 50 years ago when those laws were enacted may not be the case today.”

No compensation

The bill prevents members of the commission from receiving compensation or reimbursement of expenses for being a part of the committee. “That can be argued, that can be deliberated, that can be changed and amended,” says Blas. But as he sees it now, he says reviewing these statutes is part of the day job for many, if not all, of the would-be appointees.

“We’re talking about prosecutors, we’re talking about those individuals that are in the judicial system,” Blas says. “This is basically what they do for a living. They already make a living out of this. You’re asking individuals to look into statutes they would normally look into on any given day.”

Public Hearing

A public hearing for the bill, formally known as Bill 146-36, this Thursday at 2 pm. A livestream will be available on the Guam Legislature’s YouTube channel.

To register to provide virtual testimony, members of the public can email senatorterlajeguam@gmail.com or call (671) 472-3586 by tomorrow. Written testimony can be submitted via email to the Office of the Speaker, or hand-delivered to the Guam Congress Bldg. at 163 Chalan Santo Papa, Hagåtña, Guam.

 

Below is bill 146-36 as of February 1, 2022:

Bill No. 146-36 (LS)