Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court refusing to accept Tracy Souza’s offer to stipulate to his prior felony conviction, which constituted an element of an offense with which he was charged. Souza was charged by felony information with place to keep unloaded firearms other than pistols and revolvers and ownership or possession prohibited of any firearm or ammunition by a person convicted of certain crimes. Following jury selection, Souza stipulated to his prior felony conviction. The jury found Souza guilty of both charged offenses. On appeal, Souza maintained that he was forced to accept the State’s proposed stipulation, which contained facts that were not elements of the offense and were unduly prejudicial. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed the circuit court’s judgment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the manner in which the circuit court addressed Souza’s offer to stipulate to the prior conviction element was inconsistent with this Court’s decision in State v. Murray, 169 P.3d 955 (Haw. 2007), and the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. Souza" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant’s convictions for unlawful imprisonment in the second degree and abuse of family or household members, holding that the prosecutor’s statements during closing argument amounted to an unwarranted attack on the person character of defense counsel and, by extension, Defendant, and the misconduct warranted vacating Defendant’s convictions. At issue on appeal was the propriety of the prosecutor’s remarks suggesting that opposing counsel attempted to induce the complaining witness to give false testimony during cross-examination. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed the judgment, holding that there was no reasonable possibility that the prosecutor’s comment contributed to Defendant’s convictions. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the nature of the prosecution’s remarks during closing argument, the lack of any effective curative instruction, and the relative weight of the evidence, considered collectively, made clear that there was a reasonable possibility that the error might have contributed to Defendant’s convictions; and (2) the improper remarks did not clearly deny Defendant a fair trial, and therefore, the protections of double jeopardy were not implicated. View "State v. Underwood" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reiterated its holding in State v. Murray, 169 P.3d 955, 964 (2007), that a trial court must engage a defendant in an on-the-record colloquy to ensure the defendant is intelligently, knowingly, and voluntarily relinquishing the right to have all elements of a charged criminal offense proven beyond a reasonable doubt before the court may accept the defendant’s admission of an element of the crime. Further, the Court declined to establish an exception to the colloquy requirement when a stipulation is based on trial strategy or time constraints. Defendant was charged with operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant (OVUII). Defendant stipulated to the fact that her blood was drawn and that the blood test results showed a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.1056 grams of alcohol per hundred milliliters or cubic centimeters of blood. The district court found Defendant guilty of OVUII. The Supreme Court vacated Defendant’s OVUII conviction, holding that the district court plainly erred in failing to engage Defendant in an on-the-record colloquy regarding the stipulation to the blood test results, as required by Murray, and erred in accepting the stipulation as evidence proving that Defendant’s BAC was .08 or more grams of alcohol per one hundred milliliters or cubic centimeters of blood. View "State v. Ui" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant’s conviction for operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant, holding that the record did not support a conclusion that Defendant’s waiver of the right to testify at trial was voluntarily, intelligently, and knowingly made, and the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed the conviction, concluding that the district court’s end-of-trial Tachibana colloquy was adequate and that Defendant’s waiver of the right to testify was validly made. The Supreme Court vacated the lower courts’ judgments and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings, holding (1) the Tachibana colloquy was deficient where the district court did not engage in a true colloquy with Defendant to ascertain her understanding of the stated constitutional principles and to ensure that Defendant’s decision not to testify was made with an understanding of these principles; and (2) the error was not harmless. View "State v. Celestine" on Justia Law

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The circuit court erred in failing to continue trial because of the unavailability of a defense witness. Defendant was found guilty of second degree robbery. On the first day of his trial, defendant moved to continue because the police officer who had arrested him and spoken with him shortly after the alleged robbery was unavailable to testify. The circuit court denied the motion. Following closing arguments, Defendant filed a motion for mistrial, which the circuit court denied. After he was found guilty, Defendant moved for a new trial, which the circuit court denied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred in denying Defendant’s motion because the police officer’s testimony was relevant and material testimony that benefitted Defendant; and (2) accordingly, Defendant’s right to compulsory process to obtain witnesses in his favor was violated. View "State v. Williander" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Hawaii’s extended term sentencing scheme was invalid based on the holding in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), because the sentencing scheme allowed a judge, rather than a jury, to determine facts that resulted in extended sentences. In the instant case, Appellant pled guilty to various offenses in multiple cases and was sentenced to extended term sentences. The sentences became final in 2003. In 2014, Appellant filed a petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that his sentence was illegal because a judge, rather than a jury, found a relevant fact used to enhance his sentence in violation of Apprendi. The circuit court denied the petition. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment and remanded the case to the circuit court, holding that Appellant’s extended term sentences were imposed in an illegal manner. View "Flubacher v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) ruling that some of the grounds of Albert Batalona’s post-conviction petition raised colorable claims for relief and that the circuit court correctly denied the petition with regard to the remaining grounds, holding (1) the grounds of Batalona’s petition asserting that defense counsel’s failure to challenge the denial of Defendant’s request for a copy of discovery materials resulted in the impairment of his right to present a complete defense and adversely affected his waiver of the right to testify raised colorable claims for relief; and (2) the ICA properly denied a hearing with regard to the remaining grounds set forth in the petition except as to ground 18, which the Court dismissed with prejudice. With respect to the State’s certiorari application, the Court affirmed the ICA’s determination that the ground of Defendant’s petition asserting that defense counsel failed to exercise a good faith effort to obtain a robbery co-participant’s attendance at trial raised a colorable claim for relief. View "Batalona v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) ruling that some of the grounds of Albert Batalona’s post-conviction petition raised colorable claims for relief and that the circuit court correctly denied the petition with regard to the remaining grounds, holding (1) the grounds of Batalona’s petition asserting that defense counsel’s failure to challenge the denial of Defendant’s request for a copy of discovery materials resulted in the impairment of his right to present a complete defense and adversely affected his waiver of the right to testify raised colorable claims for relief; and (2) the ICA properly denied a hearing with regard to the remaining grounds set forth in the petition except as to ground 18, which the Court dismissed with prejudice. With respect to the State’s certiorari application, the Court affirmed the ICA’s determination that the ground of Defendant’s petition asserting that defense counsel failed to exercise a good faith effort to obtain a robbery co-participant’s attendance at trial raised a colorable claim for relief. View "Batalona v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The circuit court correctly ruled that this criminal case must be dismissed because Defendant’s Hawai’i Rules of Penal Procedure Rule 48 rights had been violated where the twenty-one day period between Defendant’s arraignment and the first setting of the waiver or demand of a jury trial hearing was not excludable pursuant to Rule 48(c)(1) or (c)(8). The circuit court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss his criminal charges with prejudice for violation of Rule 48. The intermediate court of appeals vacated the dismissal order, holding (1) a twenty-one day period between Defendant’s arraignment and the first setting of the waiver/demand hearing was excludable from Rule 48 calculations under subsections (c)(1) and (c)(8); and (2) while the case should not have been dismissed, the circuit court also erred in failing to consider the factors identified in State v. Estencion, 625 P.2d 1040 (1981) in dismissing the case with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Defendant’s Rule 48 rights were not violated under the circumstances of this case; and (2) upon remand, the circuit court must properly apply the Estencion factors to determine whether the case should be dismissed with or without prejudice. View "State v. Choy Foo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Because restitution is part of the “maximum penalty provided by law” and is a direct consequence of conviction, defendants must be appropriately advised and questioned in open court regarding their understanding of this possibility before a court can accept their guilty or no contest plea. In a plea agreement with the State, to which the circuit court agreed to be bound, Defendant agreed to plead guilty in three criminal cases, provided that he would be sentenced to certain terms of imprisonment. On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court violated the agreement by also sentencing him to pay restitution. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions without prejudice to him filing a Hawai’i Rule of Penal Procedure Rule 40 petition in the circuit court, holding (1) courts must advise defendants that restitution is a possible consequence of conviction before accepting their pleas; and (2) although the circuit court did not conduct a proper colloquy in Defendant’s case, Defendant never filed an appropriate motion in the circuit court. View "State v. Kealoha" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law