Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Aerial surveillance of the curtilage of a private residence conducted for the purposes of detecting criminal activity thereupon qualifies as a “search” within the meaning of Haw. Const. art. I, 7. In this case, three helicopter flyovers of Defendant’s residence led to a police officer’s naked eye observation of two rows of potted marijuana plants growing in the curtilage of Defendant’s house. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the aerial search violated his reasonable expectation of privacy. The circuit court denied the motion to suppress. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacated the circuit court’s order denying Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence, concluding that the circuit court erred in concluding that Defendant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the area surrounding his house from aerial surveillance. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the police officer conducted unconstitutional, warrantless searches in contravention of Defendant’s rights under Haw. Const. art. I, 7; and (2) therefore, the evidence obtained during the execution of the search warrant, which was based on the officer’s observations during his aerial reconnaissance missions, was the fruit of the poisonous tree. View "State v. Quiday" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court here provided guidance as to when circumstances are compelling for purposes of denying a defendant’s motion for release from custody when the defendant is held for a period of more than two days after initial appearance without commencement of a preliminary hearing. See Hawaii Rules of Penal Procedure 5(c)(3). Petitioners Si Ufaga Moana and Jayvan C. Curioso each sought a writ of mandamus directing the Honorable Frances Q.F. Wong and Jayvan C. Curioso, respectively, to order their release from custody in accordance with the requirement that a defendant be released upon motion if a preliminary hearing has not commenced within two days of the defendant’s initial appearance. The Supreme Court denied the petitions as moot because the State respectively charged Petitioners by information and grand jury indictment during the pendency of these petitions, obviating the need for preliminary hearings. However, the court considered the legal issues raised by these cases because they were capable of repetition but would otherwise evade review. View "Moana v. Wong" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) on appeal affirming the circuit court’s order denying International Fidelity Insurance Company’s renewed motion to set aside judgment or for clarification of judgment. Ida Peppers of Freedom Bail Bonds signed a bail bond as the surety on a bond. An attached power of attorney gave Peppers authority to oblige International to insure the bond, but International’s name was not present on the bond, and Pepper’s signature did not indicate that she had signed as an agent for International. When the criminal defendant did not appear, the circuit court entered a judgment and order of forfeiture of bail bond. Several months after providing notice to Peppers of the written judgment, the State provided written notice directly to International. Concluding that the holdings in State v. Nelson, 398 P.3d 712 (Haw. 2017), were dispositive in this case, the Supreme Court held (1) the State complied with Haw. Rev. Stat. 804-51 when it timely provided notice to Peppers; (2) International’s procedural due process rights were not violated; and (3) the judgment against Peppers remained enforceable. View "State v. Vaimili " on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals rejecting Defendant’s contention that the district court abused its discretion in not dismissing with prejudice the charges against Petitioner based upon a violation of Haw. R. Pen. P. 48. The district court dismissed the charges against Petitioner without prejudice. Before the Supreme Court, Petitioner argued that the charges were not serious as a matter of law and that the State should have been precluded from reinstituting prosecution. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the lower courts, holding that, based on the record in this case, and in light of the applicable principles that guide a court in the exercise of its discretion, the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the charges against Defendant without prejudice. View "State v. Fukuoka" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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After a joint trial, the jury found Lawrence Bruce guilty of promoting prostitution in the second degree and found Justin McKinley guilty of promoting prostitution in the first degree. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacated Bruce’s and McKinley’s convictions and remanded their cases for new trials, concluding that one of the prosecutor’s comments during rebuttal closing argument constituted misconduct and that the misconduct was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court reversed the ICA’s judgment, holding that the prosecutor’s comments, when properly analyzed in context, were not improper because they were relevant to the fundamental issues at trial. View "State v. Bruce" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal were appropriate procedures for cases in which a trial court provides a “sentencing inclination.” In this opinion, the Supreme Court discussed procedures trial judges should follow before providing sentencing inclinations. Further, the court prospectively held that if a defendant pleads guilty or no contest in response to a court’s sentencing inclination and the court subsequently decides not to follow the inclination, the court must provide the defendant with the opportunity to affirm or withdraw the plea of guilty or no contest. Here, the Supreme Court affirmed the intermediate court of appeals’ judgment affirming the circuit court’s decision to deny Defendant’s motion to reconsider his sentence, holding that because Defendant voluntarily and knowingly entered his plea after acknowledging the non-binding nature of the circuit court’s sentencing inclination, and because the circuit court provided sufficient reasons for its deviation from the original sentencing inclination, Defendant was not entitled to be resentenced pursuant to the court’s original sentencing inclination. View "State v. Sanney" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Under Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) 641-11, a defendant may appeal from an order of the circuit court dismissing the proceedings without prejudice. After the circuit court dismissed defendant's case without prejudice due to pretrial delay pursuant to Hawai'i Rules of Penal Procedure Rule 48, defendant appealed. Defendant argued that the circuit court erred in dismissing the case without prejudice, thereby permitting reprosecution of the charges. In light of HRS 641-11, the Supreme Court of Hawai'i remanded to the ICA for resolution of defendant's appellate claim. View "Hawai'i v. Nicol" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court of Hawaii affirmed defendant's conviction for sexually assaulting his minor daughter. The court held that the family court did not abuse its discretion in admitting most of the testimony of the State's expert witness because the testimony helped explain the interaction between the minor and defendant, and its probative value outweighed its prejudicial effect. The court also held that, although the statistical evidence should not have been admitted, that error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. McDonnell" 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 Defendant’s conviction for the offense of operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant. On appeal, Defendant argued that the ICA erred in concluding that the State laid a sufficient foundation to introduce the results of Defendant’s blood alcohol test results. The Supreme Court held that the trial court did not err in admitting Defendant’s blood test results because the State met the burden laid out in State v. Werle, 218 P.3d 762 (Haw. 2009) and State v. Montalbo, 828 P.2d 1274 (Haw. 1992) to establish a sufficient foundation to introduce the blood test results. View "State v. Villena" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The circuit court erred when it restricted Defendant during his criminal trial in deciding whether and when in the course of presenting his defense he should take the stand, in violation of his constitutional privilege against self-incrimination, his constitutional right to the assistance of counsel, and his right to due process of law. Although the trial was anticipated to last up to six days, the State rested its case-in-chief in the early afternoon on the first day of the evidentiary portion of the trial. Over defense counsel’s objection, the circuit court ordered Defendant to take the stand that day or forfeit his right to testify entirely. Consequently, Defendant took the stand and testified before the other witnesses in the defense’s case. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court’s judgment and remanded the case for a new trial, holding that the circuit court erred and that the error was not subject to harmless error review. View "State v. Loher" on Justia Law