Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Hawaii
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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) holding that Defendant was not deprived of due process when the circuit court refused to hold a hearing during trial as to whether Defendant was incompetent pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. 704-404, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion.Defendant was charged with one count of sexual assault in the first degree. During trial, Defendant's counsel informed the circuit court of his belief that Defendant was not fit to proceed. The circuit court denied the motion, and Defendant was found guilty. Defendant filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that he was incompetent during his trial. The motion was denied. The ICA remanded the case to have the circuit court determine whether Defendant was competent at the time of his trial. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment, holding that there was ample evidence subsequent to trial supporting Defendant's motion for a new trial. View "State v. Fleming " on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming Defendant's conviction of operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant (OVUII), Haw. Rev. Stat. 291E-61(a)(1), holding that any error not taking judicial notice that thirty mph was equivalent to forty-four feet per second was harmless.During trial, Defendant's attorney asked the district court to take judicial notice that sixty miles per hour was equivalent to eighty-eight feet per second as a matter that is generally known. The court appeared to conclude that it could not take judicial notice of the conversion and that Defendant would have to present expert testimony. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that trial courts are required to take judicial notice of equivalent measurements unless provided with the mathematical equation for conversion, but the error in this case was harmless. View "State v. Kwong" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacating the circuit court's order granting Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained in a search of Defendant's bedroom, holding that the circuit court erred in suppressing all evidence obtained by the State.In granting Defendant's motion to suppress, the circuit court determined that Defendant possessed a reasonable expectation of privacy in his bedroom and that the police officer coerced Defendant into opening his bedroom door. The court then suppressed all statements, evidence, observations and actions that were obtained after entry into the bedroom. The ICA vacated the circuit court's order, holding that an emergency aid exception justified the warrantless search. The Supreme Court affirmed on different grounds, holding that, even if the officers unlawfully searched Defendant's bedroom, the evidence obtained did not constitute suppressible "fruit of the poisonous tree." View "State v. Lee" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) and the circuit court's order denying Petitioner's petition to vacate, set aside, or correct illegal sentence through a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to Haw. R. Penal P. 40, holding that counsel did not properly advise Petitioner about the consequences of an aggravated felony conviction.Petitioner pleaded no contest to theft in the first degree, an aggravated felony under federal immigration law, and to welfare fraud. Petitioner's counsel's advice conveyed that there was a realistic possibility Petitioner would not be deported, but, in reality, Petitioner was precluded from discretionary relief from deportation due to her conviction. The Supreme Court held that Petitioner was entitled to relief under the totality of the circumstances and offered guidance as to an issue relating to qualifications of interpreters. View "Araiza v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the circuit court's denial of Defendant's second Haw. R. Penal. P. 40 petition for post-conviction relief, holding that the ICA erred in affirming the circuit court's ruling that Defendant failed to state a colorable claim that he was convicted of attempted reckless manslaughter in his second petition.Defendant's second petition arose from a 1988 conviction for two counts of attempted first degree murder, one count of attempted first degree murder, one count of attempted manslaughter, and one count of place to keep firearm. In his second Rule 40 petition, Defendant argued that his conviction of attempted manslaughter was based on reckless conduct and therefore, his sentence was illegal. The circuit court denied the petition, and the ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment and Defendant's 1988 conviction for attempted manslaughter, holding (1) Defendant was convicted of attempted reckless manslaughter and was therefore subject to an illegal sentence for a non-existent crime; and (2) the presumptively harmful erroneous attempted reckless manslaughter jury instruction was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Stanley v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the circuit court's judgment of conviction and sentence, holding that the district court rejected evidence which, if admitted, would have presented an essential factual issue for the trier of fact.After Defendant was arrested and charged with assault, one of the medical examiners, Dr. Martin Blinder, who examined Defendant opined that Defendant suffered from amphetamine psychosis and may be entitled to a lack of penal responsibility defense. The State filed a motion for a finding of inadmissibility seeking to preclude Dr. Blinder from testifying at trial. The circuit court prevented Dr. Blinder from testifying on the grounds that State v. Young, 999 P.2d 230 (Haw. 2000), had determined that a drug-induced mental illness was self-induced intoxication prohibited as a defense by Haw. Rev. Stat. 702-230(1). Defendant was convicted of assault second, and the ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court remanded the case for further proceedings, holding (1) the self-induced intoxication exception of section 702-230(1) applies only when a defendant is under the temporary influence of voluntarily ingested substances at the time of an act; and (2) by precluding Dr. Blinder's testimony at trial, the circuit court violated Defendant's due process right to present a complete defense. View "State v. Abion" on Justia Law

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Due to the rate of positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on O'ahu, the Supreme Court ordered that the August 27, 2020 order regarding temporary extension of the time requirements under Haw. R. Pen. P. 5(c)(3) for first circuit criminal matters is further extended until February 14, 2021.On August 27, because of a surge of COVID-19 cases in community correctional centers and facilities, especially at the O‘ahu Community Correctional Center, the Supreme Court entered its order providing that the first circuit may temporarily extend the time requirements for preliminary hearings to protect public health and safety. Because the rate of positive COVID-19 cases continues to fluctuate and the grand jury was scheduled to be in recess in January, the Supreme Court held that a further extension of the August 27 order was necessary. Thus, the Court ordered that the August 27 order be extended until February 14, 2021 unless otherwise further modified or extended. View "In re Judiciary's Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals affirming Defendant's judgment of conviction and sentence for second-degree assault, holding that the circuit court erred by failing to instruct the jury on second-degree reckless endangering.At the close of trial, the circuit court instructed the jury on assault in the second and third degrees. The jury convicted Defendant of second-degree assault. In his application for writ of certiorari, Defendant argued that the circuit court was required to instruct the jury on reckless endangering in the second degree. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) reckless endangering in the second degree is a lesser-included offense of assault in the second degree; and (2) because there was a rational basis to acquit Defendant of assault in the second degree and to convict him of reckless endangering in the second degree, the circuit court erred when it failed to instruct the jury accordingly. View "State v. Manuel" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the denial of relief and dismissal of Appellant's Hawai'i Rules of Penal Procedure (HRPP) Rule 40 petition, holding that Appellant was entitled to appropriate relief because Appellant's counsel was ineffective.Appellant was convicted of promoting a dangerous drug in the second degree and prohibited acts related to drug paraphernalia. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. After the deadline had passed for filing a writ of certiorari, Appellant filed an application for writ of certiorari challenging the ICA's decision. The Supreme Court dismissed the application because it was untimely. Appellant then filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief pursuant to Rule 40, alleging that he was denied effective assistance of counsel because appellate counsel failed timely to apply for writ of certiorari despite assuring Appellant that she would do so. The circuit court denied relief. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) appellate counsel was ineffective; and (2) appropriate relief in this case was allowing Appellant to refile an application for writ of certiorari in his original case so that the Supreme Court can decide to accept or reject it on the merits. View "Villados v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court extended an August 27, 2020 order for first circuit criminal matters, which was extended pursuant to a September 11, 2020 order, until November 16, 2020, determining that changing conditions wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic required flexibility and vigilance regarding the need to protect the health and safety of court users and Judiciary personnel.In July 2020, there was a surge of COVID-19 cases in Hawaii, included cases in community correctional centers and facilities, particularly at the O'ahu Community Correctional Center. As a result, the time requirements for preliminary hearings under Haw. R. Pen. P. (HRPP) 5(c)(3) was impacted. In August 2020, the Supreme Court entered an order providing that the first circuit may temporarily extend the time requirements for preliminary hearings no longer than reasonably necessary to protect public health and safety. In September, the order was extended. Because the transports of custody defendants from all O'ahu correctional facilities remained suspended and the exponential number of citations issued for Haw. Rev. Stat. ch. 127A violations remained high, the Supreme Court extended the August order for first circuit criminal matters until November 16, 2020. View "In re Judiciary’s Response to COVID-19 Outbreak" on Justia Law