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Showing posts from October, 2007

District Ct. May Compel Discovery of Laser Gun Specs

State v. Lo (HSC Oct. 30, 2007)

Background. The defendant, Jack Miller, was cited for excessive speeding in violation of HRS § 291C-105(a)(1) for allegedly driving 76 mph in a 35-mph zone. The police measured the speed of Miller's car with a laser gun. Pursuant to HRPP Rule 16, Miller sought particular items relating to the laser gun: the manufacturer's operation and maintenance manuals; certification documents; police maintenance records; manufacture and acquisition dates; warranty documents; laser readings; firearm qualification test results for the officer who cited Miller; fixed distance used to calibrate the laser gun and the location where the calibration took place; and “delta distance” used to calibrate the laser gun and location. The State refused to disclose, and Miller filed a motion to compel their discovery on the grounds that these items were discoverable when the conviction is based solely on the laser gun reading. The district court ordered the disclosure of onl…

When Priors An Element, Don't Stip w/o Colloquy

State v. Murray (HSC Oct. 29, 2007)

Background. The State charged Murray with Abuse of a Household or Family Member in violation of HRS § 709-906, which requires the defendant to be charged as a class C felony when the charged offense occurs within two years of the 2d or subsequent conviction. At trial, the defense counsel stipulated to Murray's prior abuse convictions. The stipulation was read into evidence to the jury w/o a limiting instruction. The jury found Murray guilty as charged. The ICA affirmed.

Prior Convictions are “Elements” to the Offense as a Felony. Because HRS § 709-906(7) mandates the State to charge as class C felony based on prior convictions of the same statute made w/in two years, (first-time convictions under this statute are misdemeanors), the HSC held that the prior convictions were essential elements that must be proven by the State beyond a reasonable doubt. See HRS § 702-205; State v. Aiwohi, 109 Hawai'i 115, 123 P.3d 1210 (2005) (essential elements a…

Confronting the Confrontation Clause

State v. Fields (HSC Oct. 11, 2007)

Background. Reginald Fields lived with his girlfriend, Staggs, on Kauai. One night their neighbor and landlord heard an argument between Fields, his friend, Richards, and Staggs. The landlord also heard slapping sounds and a hard thud. The landlord testified, without objection, that she heard someone yell, "Reggie, get off her." The landlord called the police. Two officers went to the house and found Staggs all alone. She had scratches on her face and shoulder and her clothes were torn. Staggs told the police that the other night, her mother came with a truck full of men and beat up Fields. This upset Fields and he took it out her by punching her in the face.

Fields was charged with abuse of a family or household member in violation of HRS § 709-906(1). At a bench trial Staggs testified. She did not recall the statements she gave to the police. On cross-examination, Staggs admitted that she had been drinking that nigh…

Unreasonable notice for HRE Rule 404(b), Aganon distinguished, other tidbits

State v. Pond (ICA Oct. 11, 2007)

Vacated and Remanded by Hawai'i Supreme Court

Background. Pond was charged with abuse of a household member in violation of HRS § 709-906 and interference with reporting an emergency or crime in violation of HRS §710-1010.5. Just before trial, Pond's counsel requested to continue the trial in order to file a written notice to present evidence showing bad conduct under Hawaii Rules of Evidence (HRE) Rule 404(b). Counsel explained that he intended to show evidence at trial that two weeks before the incident, the complaining witness attacked Pond. Counsel could not file notice of this HRE Rule 404(b) evidence any sooner than today because Pond was unable to recall the exact date of the prior incident until the morning of trial. The court denied the request to continue.

At trial, the complaining witness testified that Pond, her live-in boyfriend at the time, came home drunk one night and attacked her. She tried calling the police on her cell phone, b…

Extended sentencing: partly extrinsic, partly intrinsic, all unconstitutional.

State v. Maugaotega (HSC Oct. 1, 2007)

Background. Arising from five separate cases, Maugaotega was convicted of 22 counts ranging from attempted murder to robbery to sex assault to promoting drugs. The State filed five separate motions for extended terms of imprisonment pursuant to HRS §§706-662 and 706-661. At a sentencing hearing, the circuit court concluded that Maugaotega was a "multiple offender" and that his "criminal actions were so extensive that the sentence of imprisonment for an extended term is necessary for the protection of the public." The sentencing court granted the State's motions and sentenced Maugaotega to life.

On appeal Maugaotega argued that the sentencing court's findings violated his Sixth Am. rights based on Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000) and Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004). The HSC rejected his arguments, and affirmed. Maugaotega then petitioned cert. to the US Supreme Court, and in 2007 ce…

ICA finds error in failing to provide written notice of conditions for DAG plea

State v. Shannon (ICA Sept. 28, 2007)

Background. Shannon pleaded guilty to Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree and made an oral motion for a deferred acceptance of guilty (DAG) plea, which was granted by the district court over the State's objection. The district court then imposed special conditions that he remain arrest-and-conviction free, perform 40 hours of community service, and pay a $25 fee. At a proof-of-compliance hearing, the State asserted that Shannon had violated the conditions of his DAG plea based on incidents occurring at least six months after the DAG plea was granted, and made a motion to set aside the DAG plea. The district court granted the State's motion, and filed judgment.

Failure to receive written copy of DAG plea conditions amounts to reversible error. The DAG statute, HRS §853-1, incorporates the enumerated conditions in HRS § 706-624, which allows the courts to attach certain conditions to probation sentences or the suspension of a sentence. HRS …

Haw. Sup. Ct. finds little trouble in rejecting pot smoking in the name of religion, splits on privacy and plain error.

State v. Sunderland (HSC Sept. 21, 2007)

Background. A Big-Island police officer looking for a missing child went to Sunderland's home, a known hang-out spot of the child. The officer saw in plain view a pipe used to smoke marijuana, and inquired about it. Sunderland told the officer that the pipe was his and that he smokes marijuana for religious purposes. Sunderland even produced his "Cannabis Ministry" identification card to the officer. Sunderland was arrested on the spot. In the district court Sunderland was charged with Promoting a Dangerous Drug in the Third Degree (HRS § 712-1243). Sunderland filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that smoking marijuana as a member of the Cannabis Ministry was a constitutionally-protected activity related to the First Amendment. The motion was denied and the district court found him guilty as charged, and fined $150.

On appeal, Sunderland argued that the prosecution for possessing drugs in his own home for religious purposes viol…

Qualifying drug experts a weighty issue.

State v. Manewa (HSC Sept. 12, 2007).

Background. Manewa was arrested after handing to an undercover officer two packets of a crystalline substance in exchange for $600. After his arrest, police searched a fanny pack that belonged to him and found "paraphernalia" and more bags of a crystalline substance. Manewa was charged with violating both HRS § 712-1241 and HRS § 712-1242. The State at trial offered police criminalist, Hassan Mohammed, as an expert in drug analysis and identification. His testimony helped establish that the substance taken from the fanny pack was crystal methamphetamines weighing at least more than one-eighth of an ounce. Manewa was convicted of the drug offenses. On appeal, Manewa argued that Mohammed's testimony was inadmissible because Mohammed was not qualified as an expert to testify on the identity and weight of the substances.

Schofill distinguished. On appeal, the HSC rejected the State's contention that State v. Schofill controls. In that …

Merging because the legislature says so.

State v. Fagaragan (ICA Sept. 10, 2007)

Background. After a routine traffic stop, the police found from Fagaragan's pockets a bag with methamphetamines in individual plastic packets. Fagaragan was charged with Promoting a Dangerous Drug in the 1st Degree; Attempted Promotion of a Dangerous Drug in the First; and Prohibited Acts Related to Drug Paraphernalia. A jury found him guilty on all three counts, and the circuit court sentenced him on all three counts without merger. On appeal, Fagaragan argued that his promoting-in-the-first count should have merged with the prohibited-acts count thereby amounting to plain error.

Merger based on plain language and legislative intent of the statute, NOT on general principles. The ICA avoided constitutional arguments as well as arguments based on the general rules of merger provided in HRS § 701-109, by determining at the outset that the statute itself called for merged counts. Instead, the ICA held that convictions merge when the plain languag…