Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Hawaii

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s conviction of committing the offense of terroristic threatening in the second degree, rendered after a bench trial. On appeal, Defendant argued that his substantial rights were violated when, during closing argument, the prosecutor read a portion of the complainant’s prior statement to the police where its contents had not been admitted into evidence. The Supreme Court agreed that error occurred, holding that the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt because the prior statement was clearly relevant to proving the terroristic threatening offense, the State’s case was enhanced by the statement, and the defense’s case was significantly prejudiced. The court remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. View "State v. McGhee" on Justia Law

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In eight separate criminal cases, International Fidelity Insurance Company issued eight separate powers of attorney (POAs) to either Ida Peppers of Freedom Bail Bond or Charles Fisher of AAA Local Bail Bonds to execute a bail bond on behalf of the defendants in each case. In each case, the bonded defendant failed to appear, and the circuit court entered a judgment and order of forfeiture of bail bond. The court provided notice of those judgments to the surety listed on the bonds. International Fidelity moved to set aside each of the forfeiture judgments, arguing that it did not receive notice of the judgments as required under Haw. Rev. Stat. 804-51. The circuit court denied the motions. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed, concluding that due process and the requirements of section 804-51 were satisfied when notice of the forfeiture judgments were issued to Peppers or Fisher. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the ICA did not err (1) in determining that notice to International Fidelity of the forfeiture judgments was not required by due process or under section 804-51; and (2) to the extent the forfeiture judgments were ambiguous, they were entered against the sureties on the bond - Peppers or Fisher. View "State v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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The circuit court deprived Defendant of his right to confront and cross-examine the complaining witness (CW) as to her bias and motive by limiting the CW’s testimony on the subject of Defendant’s immigration status and whether the CW knew that Defendant could face deportation if he was arrested. Defendant was found guilty of terroristic threatening in the first degree. The offense arose from a domestic dispute between Defendant and his ex-girlfriend, the CW. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed the judgment of conviction. Defendant filed an application for writ of certiorari, challenging the circuit court’s decision to limit the CW’s testimony on cross-examination. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of conviction and probation sentence and remanded the case to the circuit court for a new trial. View "State v. Acacio" on Justia Law

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The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) erred in concluding that a challenge to the erroneous inclusion of prior convictions in a PSI cannot be brought on a Hawai'i Rules of Penal Procedure Rule 35 motion for post-conviction relief; The circuit court sentenced Stanley Kong to consecutive terms of imprisonment based on a presentence investigation report (PSI) that erroneously included two prior convictions that had been previously vacated and dismissed. Kong’s counsel did not, however, bring this fact to the circuit court’s attention. The Supreme Court affirmed the sentence in Kong I. Thereafter, Kong filed a motion under Rule 35(b) to reconsider or reduce sentence challenging the erroneous inclusion of the two prior convictions in his PSI. The circuit court denied the motion. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment on appeal and remanded, holding (1) the ICA erred in concluding that Defendant could not challenge, via a Rule 35 motion, the erroneous inclusion of the two prior convictions in his PSI; and (2) the circuit court erred by concluding that Kong I precluded its reevaluation of Kong’s sentence and by failing to address Kong’s challenge to the inclusion of the two vacated and dismissed prior convictions in his PSI. View "State v. Kong" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the question that the Supreme Court left open in State v. Mainaaupo, 178 P.3d 1 (Haw. 2008): whether the right to remain silent attaches rearrest and, if so, in what manner and to what extent may prearrest silence be used by the State in a criminal trial. The Supreme Court held (1) the right to remain silent under Haw. Const. art. I, section 10 attaches at least at the point at which a person has been seized; (2) evidence regarding a defendant’s exercise of the right to remain silent may not be used as substantive evidence of guilt, and the State may not elicit evidence of prearrest silence to imply Defendant’s guilt or introduce evidence whose character suggests to the fact-finder that the defendant’s prearrest silence is inferential evidence of the defendant’s guilt. Because Defendant’s prearrest silence in this case was introduced into evidence as substantive proof of Defendant’s guilt and the error was not harmless, the case must be remanded for a new trial. View "State v. Tsujimura" on Justia Law

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The circuit court excluded three statements that Defendant made to the police, concluding that the first and second statements were unlawfully elicited from Defendant because they were obtained prior to the police apprising Defendant of his Miranda right. The court concluded that the third statement, obtained from Defendant when he invoked his right to counsel while being given Miranda warnings, was a product of the two earlier illegally obtained statements. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacated the circuit court’s ruling as to the second and third statements. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment on appeal and affirmed the circuit court’s order suppressing the statements, holding that the second statement was inadmissible into evidence because it was the product of pre-Miranda custodial interrogation and that the third statement was the fruit of the first and second statements. View "State v. Trinque" on Justia Law

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Defendant and his codefendant were charged with methamphetamine trafficking in the second degree. The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s conviction, holding that the circuit court erred in instructing the jury on the offense of second-degree methamphetamine trafficking, and the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Specifically, the court held that the jury instruction on second-degree methamphetamine trafficking could have been reasonably understood as relieving the State of its burden to prove that the relevant state of mind applies to the “attendant circumstances” element of the charged offense. The court remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "State v. Bovee" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the District Court of the Fifth Circuit finding Defendant guilty of simple trespass and harassment, holding that the record on appeal did not indicate a valid waiver of counsel. Defendant elected to proceed pro se at trial. On appeal, the Supreme Court engaged in a plain error to review to determine whether Defendant’s constitutional right to counsel may have been affected during the proceedings below. The court held that, based on the totality of the circumstances in this case, there was no valid waiver of counsel under the test set forth in State v. Phua. View "State v. Erum " on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant’s conviction for operating or assuming actual physical control of a vehicle with .08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath, holding that the district court erred in admitting two sworn statements by an Intoxilyzer supervisor to prove that the Intoxilyzer used to test Defendant’s breath alcohol content was in proper working order. The court held that the statements were improperly admitted under the public records exception because they contained an evaluative opinion that did not constitute a “matter observed” within the meaning of Haw. R. Evid. 803(b)(8). Therefore, the State failed to lay a sufficient foundation that the Intoxilyzer was in proper working order when the breath test was administered to Defendant. View "State v. Davis" on Justia Law

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An anticipatory search warrant must, on its face, identify the triggering condition on the face of the warrant to be valid. Petitioners were charged with drug offenses based on evidence seized in a search conducted pursuant to an anticipatory search warrant. The circuit court denied Petitioners’ motion to suppress the evidence, and the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment and the circuit court’s denial of Petitioners’ motion to suppress, holding that, in light of this opinion, the search warrant was unlawful. The court remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "State v. Curtis" on Justia Law