Justia Hawaii Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The Supreme Court ruled that the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) had jurisdiction to review the merits of Appellant's postconviction appeal even though the appeal was not properly taken from a final order, holding that the appeal's procedural defects stemmed from ineffective assistance of counsel.Appellant pled no contest to murder in the second degree and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. The ICA dismissed Appellant's appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction because the appeal had not been taken from a final order. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's decision, holding (1) the order appealed from was not final, and the appeal did not give rise to appellate jurisdiction; and (2) this Court presumes prejudice to Appellant from his counsel's failure to take the procedural steps necessary to make the appeal that Appellant desired, and the appropriate remedy is consideration of the appeal on its merits. View "Suitt v. State" on Justia Law

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In this petition for an extraordinary writ the Supreme Court held that when probable cause has been found after a preliminary hearing but the case is dismissed without prejudice due to a defect in the prosecution, Haw. R. Pen. P. 12(g) permits a court to hold a defendant in custody or continue bail for a specified time that is reasonable under the circumstances.After the court dismissed charges against Scott Deangelo, it ordered under Rule 12(g) that Deangelo remain in custody for ninety days while the State sought a grand jury indictment. Deangelo brought this challenge to Rule 12(g), arguing that it violates the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Haw. Rev. Stat. 803-9(5), which requires an arrested person to be taken before a qualified magistrate for examination within forty-eight hours of arrest. The Supreme Court held that Rule 12(g) is constitutional and that the time specified must be reasonable in light of all of the circumstances. View "Deangelo v. Souza" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) in this criminal case, holding that because the information omitted the crime of forgery in the second degree's states of mind, it failed to state an offense as to counts 4-7 and violated Defendant's right to due process.Defendant was charged via information with four counts of forgery in the second decree. Defendant filed a pretrial motion to dismiss counts 4-7 charging him with forgery in the second degree because the information omitted forgery's states of mind. In response, the State argued that intent to defraud is an element, understandable to the common person, and gave notice to Defendant of forgery's state of mind. The circuit court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss. The ICA reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Defendant's information did not identify forgery's states of mind, intentionally and knowingly; and (2) therefore, counts 4-7 failed to state an offense and violated Defendant's right to due process. View "State v. Garcia" 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 held that the 2021 Hawai'i Reapportionment Commission (the Commission) discharged its obligations under Haw. Const. art. I, 6 and Haw. Rev. Stat. 25-2(b) in developing the 2021 Final Legislative Reapportionment Plan.Petitioners, voters in the state, argued that the plan violated article I, section 6 because it did not reflect that "representative districts shall be wholly included within senatorial districts" and violated Haw. Rev. Stat. 25-2(b)(5) by placing nine O'ahu legislative districts into both congressional districts. The Supreme Court held that the Commission satisfied its obligations under article IV, section 6 and section 25-2(b) by considering the constitutional and statutory district within district guidelines in developing the plan and did not abuse its discretion in adopting the plan. View "Hicks v. 2021 Hawai'i Reapportionment Commission" 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 held that the gravity of a crime, by itself, does not establish an exigency empowering law enforcement officers to bypass the warrant requirement and that the State must articulate objective facts showing an immediate law enforcement need for the entry to support a warrantless home intrusion under the exigency exception.The State invoked the exigent circumstances exception to justify a warrantless home entry into Defendant's residence. Defendant was subsequently indicted for attempted murder in the second degree. Defendant moved to suppress the evidence found during the search of his residence, arguing that the police lacked exigent circumstances to enter his residence without a warrant. The trial court granted the motion to suppress. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the police entered Defendant's home without exigent circumstances, permission, or a warrant, and therefore, the circuit court properly suppressed the evidence. View "State v. Willis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the final judgment of the circuit court granting the State's motion for summary judgment and dismissing Plaintiffs' complaint seeking a declaratory order that a recently enacted bill was adopted through an unconstitutional process, holding that the bill violated Haw. Const. Art. III, 15.Plaintiffs argued in their complaint that the adoption of a law requiring hurricane shelter space in new public schools violated article III, section 15 because the bill did not receive three readings in each house of the Hawai'i State Legislature before it was passed and signed into law. The circuit court granted summary judgment for the State, concluding that the process for enacting the law complied with the Legislature's adopted rules of procedure. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment below, holding (1) article III, section 15 requires that the three readings begin anew after a non-germane amendment changes the purpose of a bill so that it is no longer related to the original bill as introduced; and (2) the bill at issue violated this requirement. View "League of Women Voters of Honolulu v. State" on Justia Law