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Showing posts from December, 2007

For Plain/Unambig. Laws, Leave the Legislative History for Historians.

State v. Klie (HSC December 27, 2007)

Background. Klie was charged with soliciting $ex in the Waikiki area in violation of HRS § 712-1207(1) in the district court. Klie pleaded no contest. The district court accepted his plea. Klie then moved for a deferred acceptance of a no-contest plea (DANC) purs. to HRS § 853-1. The court agreed with the State that the statute did not afford the court any discretion in giving a DANC and denied Klie’s motion.

DAG-nabbit!! Generally, courts can grant a DANC or DAG when (1) the defendant pleads no contest or guilty and (2) when the ct. concludes either that the defendant isn’t likely to engage in further criminal conduct and the “ends of justice and welfare of society do not require that the defendant presently suffer the penalty[.]” State v. Sakamoto, 101 Hawai’i 409, 412, 70 P.3d 635, 638 (2003). HRS § 853-4 provides that offenses that are not subject to probation are an exception to the general rule.

HRS § 712-1207 provides specific sentenci…

HSC not suspicious on reasonable suspicion.

State v. Spillner (HSC December 24, 2007)

Background. After Spillner was pulled over for having illegally tinted windows, a police officer learned that he had no license or insurance. A week later the same police officer saw that Spillner didn’t fix the tinted windows and stopped him again. This time his girlfriend was driving. The car was still uninsured. About a week later, the same officer saw Spillner driving and stopped him a 3d time. Spillner was cited for driving w/o a license (HRS § 286-102) and being uninsured (HRS § 431:10C-104). Spillner filed a motion to suppress arguing the 3d stop was based on prior contact and that on the 3d stop there were no reasonable grounds for the stop thus it was an illegal seizure; he lost and was found guilty as charged.

Booking Ongoing Criminal Activity w/in “Bookends”. A traffic stop is a seizure for constitutional purposes, and fruits of an illegal stop must be suppressed unless the State shows that the officer had a reasonable suspici…

Agency's Determination of an Agency Reviewed w/o Deference.

Olelo v. Office of Information Practices (HSC December 21, 2007)

Background. Three people requested from Olelo, a community television programmer on Oahu, a list of the names and contact information of everyone eligible to vote in Olelo’s election to its Board members. This request came after the Office of Info. Practices issued an opinion letter that concluded Olelo was an “agency” as defined by the Uniform Information Practices Act (HRS Ch. 92F) and was thus subject to its disclosure requirements. Olelo refused to divulge, and the OIP demanded disclosure. Olelo filed a complaint for declaratory relief requesting that the circuit court conclude it was not an “agency.” The circuit court reviewed the request de novo and granted Olelo’s summary judgment. OIP appealed.

An Agency is NOT an Appellate Court. If the legislature granted the agency the discretion to make the decision being appealed, then courts review for an abuse of that discretion. However, if no discretion is granted,…

HSC finds many exceptions to mootness, declines legislating from the bench.

Doe v. Doe (HSC December 13, 2007)

Background.
A six-year-old child’s parents divorced. Sole custody went to the mother, who lived on the Big Island. Dad lived in California. The grandparents petitioned for visitation rights of the child on the grounds that it would be in the best interests of the child if they had reasonable visitation rights. Mom challenged the petition arguing that the statute allowing grandparental visitation rights, HRS § 571-46.3 was unconstitutional on its face in light of Troxell v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000). The family court agreed with Mom and dismissed the grandparents’ petition. About five months after the grandparents appealed, Dad took custody and the child moved to California. The State filed a “Notice As To Possible Mootness” arguing that the issue might be, well, moot. The HSC ordered a show cause as to why it should not be moot. Mother did so.

Mootness Was the Case. A case is moot when “events have so affected the relations between the p…

ICA gets serious on serious bodily injury

State v. Maddox (ICA December 11, 2007)

Background. Mickey Maddox went over to his ex-girlfriend's house and got into a fight with Dale Mota, his ex's new squeeze. Maddox stabbed Mota in the chest with a utility tool. The blade missed his heart and all vital organs. Mota was taken to the hospital where he was treated by Dr. Nelson. The wound was two-inches long and went between Mota's ribs right next to his heart. There was no need for a surgery or any indication of a severe injury such as a heart laceration, vessel cut, or collapsed lung. Mota's wound was cleaned and bandaged w/o stitches. He was released w/in 24 hours. Maddox was charged with first-degree assault (HRS § 707-710(1)).

At trial, Dr. Nelson testified that Mota's wound created a substantial risk of death because it was a stab wound directly towards his heart. Dr. Nelson also testified that it was a miracle how the blade did not injure any important organs. Maddox testified at trial. He testified that Mo…

Photo Lineups and Pearl-Handled Baseball Bats

State v. Yamada (ICA December 6, 2007)

Background.
On Valentine’s Day two men were robbed at the Diamond Head lookout. One of the robbers clubbed a guy with a baseball bat. Five weeks later, two Japanese tourists were robbed by two men with a baseball bat at the HNL Zoo. Later that day, police arrested Yamada when he and another guy were found rifling through a parked car at UH. Yamada had a baseball bat. Yamada’s mug shot was used in a photo lineup for one of the witnesses from Valentine’s Day; the witness identified Yamada as the man who used the bat. Yamada was charged with two counts of Robbery in the First Degree (HRS § 708-840(1)(b)(i)) and one count of Assault (HRS § 707-710). Yamada later pleaded guilty robberies at the zoo and went to trial for the Valentine’s Day incident.

At trial, Yamada raised an alibi. The State sought, over Yamada’s objection, the admission of his mug shot and the fact that Yamada pleaded guilty to the zoo robberies. The circuit court allowed the mug shot…

Impeaching with what was NOT said.

State v. Plichta (HSC Nov. 30, 2007)

Background.
Plichta stripped down a car in a parking lot with a hatchet one morning near Sand Island. After being confronted by the owner of the car, dousing him with pepper spray, trying to flee, and spray the police, he was apprehended. He told the police that they were in big trouble because he was the President of the United States, the chief of police, and part of an international agency.

Plichta’s defense counsel was preparing to go with the insanity defense and filed a motion for a three-doctor panel pursuant to HRS § 704-404. The circuit court granted the motion and three doctors examined Plichta to determine whether he was competent for trial and whether he was legally insane. Three doctors interviewed him and their reports were given to the parties and the court. At no time during the interview did Plichta talk about his belief that he was being chased by extra-terrestrial life.

At trial Plichta’s lawyer argued that at the time of the i…

HPA Likes The Cure, HSC Prefers New Order.

Coulter v. State (HSC November 30, 3007)

Background. Coulter was sentenced to 10 years for two counts of a criminal offense running concurrently. The Hawaii Paroling Authority (HPA) sent Coulter proper notice of a hearing to determine the minimum term of imprisonment and Coulter submitted materials showing mitigating circumstances such as letters of support and a biography. A hearing was held in March 2003 and the HPA issued its decision soon afterwards. The HPA imposed a min. term of seven years for each count, but never specified the level of punishment and the specific criteria upon which the decision was rendered, as required by Section III of the HPA 1989 Guidelines. Coulter filed a petition under HRPP Rule 40 arguing, inter alia, that the HPA failed to follow its own guidelines. On December 31, 2003, the HPA issued a Notice and Order of Fixing Minimum Term(s). This order set the same min. term of seven years, but included the level of punishment and the criteria. None of the peop…