Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the intermediate court of appeals’ (ICA) affirming the circuit court’s “Order Denying Application of Surety Providing Good Cause as to Why Execution Should Not Issue as to Judgment of Forfeiture,” holding that the circuit court erred as a matter of law. Defendant Joselyn Punion made an oral motion to set aside the bail bond forfeiture. The circuit court denied the motion, requiring a written motion to set aside the bail bond forfeiture and required the motion be filed by J & J Bail Bonds. The Supreme Court held that the circuit court erred as a matter of law when it did not consider Defendant’s motion and instead required that the surety file the motion and remanded this matter to the circuit court to consider Defendant’s motion to set aside the bail bond forfeiture. View "State v. Punio " on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the intermediate court of appeals’ (ICA) judgment on appeal and remanded to the circuit court to hold a Hawai’i Rules of Penal Procedure (HRPP) Rule 40 evidentiary hearing on Petitioner’s claim that counsel were ineffective for failing to challenge the sufficiency of Petitioner’s indictment, holding that Petitioner presented facts that, if true, asserted a colorable claim that his trial and/or appellate counsel was ineffective. Petitioner was indicted and charged with continuous sexual assault of a minor under the age of fourteen years, among other offenses. Petitioner later filed a second HRPP Rule 40 petition and supplemental claims petition arguing that both trial and appellate counsel were ineffective. The circuit court denied the supplemental claims petition without a hearing. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment and remanded the case, holding that Petitioner was entitled to a HRPP Rule 40 evidentiary hearing on two counts of his supplemental claims petition. View "Rita v. State " on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming judgment in favor of Defendants, holding that Plaintiff was subjected to unlawful pretrial punishment when he was held in solitary confinement by State of Hawai’i prison officials for more than nine months following his arrest, in violation of his constitutional due process rights, but defendant Petra Cho was entitled to qualified immunity under federal and state qualified immunity principles for her part in Defendant’s confinement. Plaintiff requested monetary damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 and state tort law. The circuit court entered judgment in favor of the State and Cho. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff’s placement in solitary confinement for more than nine months constituted unlawful pretrial punishment; (2) while the circuit court applied an incorrect standard for federal qualified immunity, Cho was not liable for damages for the federal constitutional violation; (3) the circuit court did not err by concluding that Cho had no negligence liability based on state qualified immunity principles; and (4) the State was not liable for damages for the state constitutional violation. View "Gordon v. Maesaka-Hirata" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacating the district court’s order dismissing with prejudice Petitioners’ charges of one count of prostitution under Haw. Rev. Stat. 712-1200(1)(b) based on State v. Modica, 567 P.2d 420 (1977), holding that the ICA erred in determining that Petitioners’ due process and equal protection rights had not been violated. In their motions to dismiss, Petitioners argued that sections 712-1200(1)(a) and (1)(b) prohibited the same conduct but that subsection (1)(b) barred a harsher penalty and that, pursuant to Modica, where two crimes prohibit the same conduct, to convict them of the crime carrying the harsher penalty would violate their due process and equal protection rights. The district court agreed and dismissed the charges. The ICA disagreed, concluding that subsections (1)(a) and (1)(b) prohibited different conduct, and therefore, the district court erred in finding a Modica violation. The Supreme Court disagreed with the ICA and remanded these cases for further proceedings, holding that, based on the plain language of sections 712-1200(1)(a) and (1)(b), as they existed at the time Petitioners were charged, Petitioners’ charges violated the Modica rule. View "State v. Sasai" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgments of the Intermediate Court of Appeals and circuit court finding that Defendant was the first aggressor in a late-night confrontation and the subsequent denial of Defendant’s request to introduce evidence of the victim’s prior violent acts under Haw. R. Evid. 404 and 405 to show his violent or aggressive character. The Court (1) because a victim’s violent or aggressive behavior is an essential element of a self-defense claim for purposes of determining admissibility under Rule 405, specific instances of conduct, such as a victim’s prior violent acts, can be used as a method of proving character in such circumstances under the rule; and (2) the circuit court erred in finding no factual dispute as to who was the first aggressor, and the error was not harmless. View "State v. DeLeon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) concluding that the circuit court erred in granting Defendant’s motion to dismiss his charge of theft as a continuing course of conduct after concluding that Defendant could not simultaneously be charged with the theft count and five individual counts of forgery. The ICA vacated the circuit court’s order granting Defendant’s motion to dismiss, concluding that the State was not barred from charging Defendant with theft in the second degree for passing five fraudulently executed checks amounting to $720 over the course of six days as a continuing course of conduct. On appeal, Defendant argued that when the State charged him with five separate counts of forgery, it recognized the episodic nature of each act and therefore could not simultaneously charge him with theft under a continuing course of conduct theory. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that theft can be charged as a continuing course of conduct, notwithstanding a decision to charge individual counts of forgery. View "State v. Yokota" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court vacate the circuit court’s order denying Petitioner’s petition for postconviction relief, holding that credible testimony during Petitioner’s postconviction hearing clearly indicated that an arrangement existed in which a codefendant expected to benefit from his testimony and that the nondisclosure of this arrangement deprived Petitioner of a fair trial with respect to several of his convictions. Petitioner was convicted of several crimes based in part on the codefendant’s testimony, who chose to testify for the State following an improper ex parte meeting between the prosecutor, judge, and codefendant’s counsel. Petitioner filed a petition for postconviction relief asserting that an undisclosed, unwritten agreement existed between the prosecutor and the codefendant under which the codefendant was promise a favorable recommendation at sentencing in exchange for his “truthful” testimony. The circuit court denied postconviction relief. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court’s order, as well as those convictions and sentences that may have reasonably been affected by the improper nondisclosure, holding that Petitioner’s right of a fair trial was violated by the nondisclosure. View "Birano v. State" on Justia Law

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In this constitutional speedy trial challenge, the Supreme Court remanded the case for dismissal with or without prejudice as the trial court determines to be appropriate under the court rules and set forth applicable legal principles to assist the trial court in its evaluation of Defendant’s speedy trial challenge if the dismissal is determined to be without prejudice. After Defendant’s initial court appearance, the State was not prepared to proceed with a prosecution. Seven months later, Defendant was indicted for the crime for which he had been arrested. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the case based on the State’s delay in bringing the prosecution. The Supreme Court held (1) because no written order or notice was filed effectively discharging Defendant’s bail, Defendant remained held to answer for the crime underlying his arrest, and therefore, the case must be dismissed under court rules; and (2) the Intermediate Court of Appeals erred by considering the legal merits of Defendant’s constitutional speedy trial claim because the trial court failed to make the factual findings necessary for review. View "State v. Visintin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated in part the circuit court’s judgment, guilty conviction, and sentence, holding that Defendant’s extended sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole violated the ex post facto clause of the United States Constitution and Haw. Rev. Stat. 1-3. After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of murder in the second degree. Defendant was sentenced to an extended sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. 706-661 and 706-662(5). On appeal, the Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the State and its witnesses to refer to Edith Skinner as the “victim” at trial; (2) the circuit court did not err in excluding certain statements as hearsay; (3) the circuit court did not err by refusing Defendant’s proposed jury instructions for lesser included offenses; (4) the circuit court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial on the basis of prosecutorial misconduct; and (5) Defendant’s sentence was an unconstitutional ex post facto application of the law because section 706-661 did not provide for a life sentence without the possibility of parole in 1989, when the offense in this case took place. View "State v. Austin " on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held in this criminal case that pursuant to its recent decision in Flubacher v. State, 414 P.3d 161 (Haw. 2018), Petitioner was entitled to relief under Hawai’i Rules of Penal Procedure (HRPP) Rule 40. Petitioner was found guilty of three counts of first-degree sexual assault and eight counts of third-degree sexual assault. The court sentenced Petitioner to extended terms of imprisonment under the multiple offender statute, Haw. Rev. Stat. 706-662(4)(a). In his amended Rule 40 petition, Petitioner argued that his extended term sentences were “illegal sentences” under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 446 (2000). The Supreme Court agreed, holding that because the findings of fact in support of imposing extended terms were made by the judge, rather than a jury, Petitioner’s extended term sentences were imposed in an illegal manner. View "Preble v. State " on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law