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Showing posts from August, 2008

Prior Convictions and its Discontents

State v. Heggland (HSC August 8, 2008)

Background. Heggland pleaded guilty to two counts of promoting a dangerous drug in the third degree (HRS § 712-1243(1)) and prohibited acts relating to drug paraphernalia (HRS § 329-43.5(a)), which allegedly took place on August 28, 2003. The State moved for a mandatory minimum sentence on the grounds that Heggland was a repeat offender based on a prior offense in Colorado. The State admitted into evidence a printout from a Colorado government webpage indicating that he was sentenced on November 14, 1997 to a five-year term of imprisonment and was on parole until November 2004. The parties stipulated to the existence of the Colorado conviction. The circuit court, however, concluded that the State did not present sufficient evidence of the prior conviction as there was no evidence showing Heggland was represented by counsel or waived his right to counsel in Colorado. The ICA vacated and remanded.

Strictly Applying the Repeat Offender Statute to non-…

Evidence of Good-Faith Belief Negates Willful, and thus Criminal, Conduct

State v. Souza (ICA August 7, 2008)

Background. In 1999 and 2000 Souza demanded from his employer that nothing from his wages be withheld for federal and state taxes. In his state tax returns for those years, Souza claimed a refund, entered a zero on the line declaring his adjusted gross income, and reported negative taxable income. When Souza was told by an investigator from the Department of Taxation, Souza told him that he would file an amended tax return. He never did.

Souza was indicted for two counts of willfully filing a false tax return (HRS § 231-36(a)) and two counts of second-degree theft by deception (HRS §§ 708-830(2) and 708-831(1)(b)). Souza represented himself at trial. The circuit court refused to admit into evidence a number of Souza's exhibits, including a memorandum he prepared in 1996 setting forth legal research and analysis on which Souza formed the belief that he was exempt from paying his taxes based on his wages. The circuit court did, however, allow…

Incriminating Answers to non-Incriminating Questions

State v. Rippe (ICA July 31, 2008)

Background. Police learned of a man in Waikiki taking a license plate. When they arrived at the scene, they encountered Rippe leaning over a BMW with a license plate in hand. An officer asked Rippe if the BMW was his, and Rippe said it was. The police suspected the BMW was stolen, and wanted to search the car for the VIN. It turned out that the BMW was in fact registered to him, but the license plate in question was not. Rippe was arrested for theft in the fourth degree. As the police searched the car for the VIN, they found a blue nylon bag underneath the driver's seat. They took it out of the car and asked Rippe if he would consent to a search of the bag. Rippe said it was not his bag. The police then searched it and found methamphetamine and related paraphernalia. They asked follow up questions about the BMW, and Rippe explained that plenty of people put stuff in his car. At the station, Rippe gave a statement after his Miranda warni…