Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Hawaii
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the judgment of the circuit court convicting and sentencing Defendant but reversed with regard to the issue of Defendant's ability to pay a crime victim compensation (CVC) fee under Haw. Rev. Stat. 706-605(6) and 351-62.6, holding that Defendant's inability to pay the CVC fee mandated waiver of the fee.Defendant was convicted of various drug, theft, fraud, and property crimes. In addition to a five-year term of incarceration, the circuit court ordered Defendant to pay a CVC fee and a drug demand reduction (DDR) assessment under Haw. Rev. Stat. 706-650. Defendant appealed, arguing that both the CVC fee and the DDR assessment constituted unconstitutional taxes. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment as to its imposition of the CVC and affirmed in all other respects, holding (1) the circuit court erroneously imposed the CVC fee upon Defendant because he was unable to pay the fee; and (2) the CVC fee and DDR assessment were not unconstitutional taxes. View "State v. Yamashita" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming Defendant's kidnapping conviction, holding that the circuit court erred in failing to instruct the jury in accordance with State v. Sheffield, 456 P.3d 122 (Haw. 2020), and the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of kidnapping as a class A felony and sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment. The ICA affirmed. At issue on appeal was whether the circuit court plainly erred in failing to give the jury a Sheffield instruction in this case. The Supreme Court answered the question in the affirmative, holding that the circuit court erred in failing to so instruct the jury, and the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. Ishimine" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that when an officer administers a standardized field sobriety test (SFST) to a person suspected of operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant, the officer is conducting an interrogation under the Hawai'i Constitution by asking "medical rule-out questions."Medical rule-out questions rule out other reasons besides intoxication for poor performance on the SFST. Defendant was asked seven medical rule-out questions while she was in police custody and before she was advised of her rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). After Defendant was charged with OVUII she filed a motion to suppress, arguing that she was subjected to interrogation when the officer asked if she would like to participate in the SFST. The district court granted the motion. The ICA ruled that the district court erred by suppressing Defendant's response to whether she would participate in the SFST but that that the medical rule-out questions constituted interrogation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the ICA did not err in concluding that Defendant's answers to the medical rule-out questions must be suppressed and that the other challenged evidence was admissible. View "State v. Skapinok" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacating in part the district court's conclusion that Defendant's performance on the standardized field sobriety test (SFST) was inadmissible fruit of the poisonous tree, holding that Defendant's performance on the SFST was admissible despite the absence of Miranda warnings preceding the test.Defendant was subject to custodial interrogation during a roadside investigation for operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant. At issue was whether the evidence gathered after that illegality, including his performance on the SFST was testimonial of fruit of the poisonous tree. The Supreme Court affirmed the admission of Defendant's performance on the SFST, holding that the police did not exploit the illegal interrogation because the interrogation did not lead to the discovery of the SFST evidence. View "State v. Manion" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the district court suppressing Defendant's statements, vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming that Defendant was in custody during the traffic stop, and remanded this case for further proceedings, holding that Defendant was not entitled to suppression of her statements.Defendant was arrested after a traffic stop and charged with operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant and excessive speeding. Defendant filed a motion to suppress statements she made during the traffic stop on the basis that she was not advised of her rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), during the incident. The district court agreed and granted the motion. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) under the totality of the circumstances, Defendant was not in custody when she was pulled over during the administration of the standardized field sobriety test; and (2) because Miranda warnings were not required, there was no illegality that would taint Defendant's subsequent statements as fruit of the poisonous tree. View "State v. Sagapolutele-Silva" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the order of the circuit court granting Defendant's motion to dismiss the felony information against him based upon a defective charge, holding that the ICA correctly determined that the State should have provided the statutory definition of "substantial bodily injury" in the charging document at issue.The State charged Defendant by felony information with the offense of assault in the second degree, in violation of Haw. Rev. Stat. 707-711(1)(a) and/or (d). Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the felony information did not provide notice as to the definitions of "substantial bodily injury" or "dangerous instrument," and therefore the charge was defective. The circuit court granted the motion and dismissed the case. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the State must include the statutory definition of "substantial bodily injury" in a charge of second-degree assault under section 707-711(a); and (2) the State waived its argument that discovery materials provided Defendant with actual knowledge of the charges against him. View "State v. Jardine" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the judgment of the circuit court denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence, holding that the police officers' actions did not constitute a breaking and that the search of a gray backpack did not exceed the terms of the search warrant in this case.On appeal, Defendant argued that the evidence against him should be excluded because police officers failed to comply with the requirements set forth in Haw. Rev. Stat. 803-37 that officers "demand entrance" before entering a building and because the search of his backpack exceeded the terms of the search warrant executed by the officers. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the purposes of Haw. Rev. Stat. 803-37 were satisfied when the officers' entry did not create any risk of harm; and (2) the searches of Defendant's backpack did not exceed the terms of the search warrant. View "State v. Keanaaina" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) to the extent it affirmed the denial of Defendant's motion for a deferred acceptance of no contest (DANC) plea, holding that the circuit court's consideration of sexual penetration was an abuse of discretion under the circumstances.Defendant was indicted for the sexual assault of a twelve-year-old and accepted a plea agreement allowing her to plead no contest to an amended charged of sexual assault in the fourth degree. Defendant moved for DANC plea, which the circuit court denied. The ICA affirmed the denial of Defendant's DANC motion. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment below, holding that Defendant's no contest plea to sexual assault in the fourth degree excluded any allegation of sexual penetration. View "State v. Satoafaiga" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming Defendant's conviction for disorderly conduct, holding that the trial court lacked sufficient evidence to convict Defendant of disorderly conduct.Defendant was arrested by lying in front of trucks scheduled to transport telescope components for the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope along with other protestors and then convicted of disorderly conduct. The ICA affirmed the conviction, concluding that the State's evidence was sufficient to support the conviction. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant's disorderly conduct conviction was unsupported by substantial evidence. View "State v. Kaeo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) determining that the criminal complaint against Defendant did not comply with Haw. Rev. Stat. 805-1 but that a non-compliant complaint could still be used to initiate and maintain a prosecution by penal summons, holding that the family court erred in issuing a penal summons.The State charged Defendant by complaint with abuse of a household or family member, but the complaint was neither signed by a complainant nor supported by a declaration. The family court issued a penal summons compelling Defendant to appear. After appearing, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the complaint was deficient, and therefore, the family court lacked probable cause to issue the penal summons. The family court granted the motion to dismiss. The ICA vacated the family court, concluding that the district court did not err in issuing the penal summons. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) section 805-1 does not distinguish between complaints for penal summons and complaints for arrest warrants; and (2) therefore, the ICA erred in holding that the State need not comply with its statutory obligations simply because it sought a penal summons. View "State v. Thompson" on Justia Law