HSC Expands “Fair and Just Reasons” to Withdraw a Perfectly Valid No-Contest Plea

  State v. Pedro (HSC June 4, 2021) Background. Theo Pedro was charged with four counts of sexual assault in the first degree, attempted sexual assault in in the first degree, sexual assault in the third degree, and kidnapping. Pedro pleaded not guilty and the Family Court of the 2d Circuit, with the Hon. Judge Richard T. Bissen, Jr. presiding, set trial. At a hearing on the defense’s motion to compel discovery, counsel announced that the parties reached a plea agreement. Pedro would plead no contest to four amended counts of sexual assault in the second degree and the other counts would be dismissed. The prosecution could seek concurrent terms of imprisonment capped at ten years. Pedro could was free to argue for probation.   Pedro’s decision to agree to the plea offer was unexpected and came as a surprise to defense counsel, the prosecutor, and the court. Using the standard change of plea form and with the assistance of a Marshallese interpreter, defense counsel represented th

Sentencing Court’s Thirteen Consecutive Misdemeanors Unjustified and how to Stip to a Probation Revocation

  State v. Sandoval (HSC May 27, 2021) Background. Manuel Sandoval was charged in three separate criminal cases about repeated violations of an injunction against harassment. He pleaded no contest in two cases totaling eleven counts of violating the injunction and sentenced to probation. While on probation, he was charged with another count of violating an injunction and assault in the 2d degree. After a bench trial, the circuit court—the Hon. Judge Christine Kuriyama—found Sandoval guilty.   Prior to sentencing, the prosecution moved to revoke his probation. At a hearing on the motion, Sandoval’s counsel announced that he would stipulate that the new conviction violated the terms and conditions of his probation. The following exchange took place:   THE COURT: Is he still stipulating to both motions [to revoke]? [DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Yes, Judge, with an explanation, if you would bear with us. THE COURT: Alright. THE DEFENDANT: Yeah. My explanation, I was out for three wee

The Police Care-Taking Function does not Extend Inside the Home

  Caniglia v. Strom (SCOTUS May 17, 2021) Background. Edward Caniglia was arguing with his wife at home in Rhode Island. He took a handgun from the bedroom, put it on the dining room table, and told his wife to “shoot [him] now and get it over with.” She left the house and checked into a hotel. When he did not answer the phone the next day, she called the police to conduct a welfare check at the house. She went home with the police and saw Caniglia was still alive and did not want to go to the hospital for a psychiatric examination. He was eventually coaxed out and made the police promise that they would not take away his guns. After he left the house, the police went inside the residence and confiscated two handguns.   Caniglia sued the police on the grounds that they violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The District Court granted summary judgment for the police and it was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals First Circuit. The SCOTUS took certiorari.   The Right

Two Notices of Appeal, Lower Court Erred in Fixing Illegal Sentence, and other Oddities

State v. Smith (ICA March 9, 2021) Background. Scott Smith was convicted of assault, terroristic threatening, sexual assault, and kidnapping. The circuit court—Hon. Judge Shackley Raffetto—sentenced him to 45 years of imprisonment in 2002. He appealed and the ICA affirmed. Smith filed a petition to set aside the conviction pursuant to HRPP Rule 40 asserting various constitutional grounds. The petition was denied. Smith appealed that and it was affirmed. In 2015, Smith filed a motion to recalculate the terms of imprisonment pursuant to HRS § 706-668.5(3). The motion was denied without prejudice because of the pending cases on appeal.   Smith filed a second Rule 40 petition in 2017 asserting more grounds to set aside the conviction. The petition was denied without a hearing and he appealed again. The ICA agreed on a single point: that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury on merger of kidnapping and assault. It remanded the case directing the prosecution to either

Credit for Time Served Includes the Time Spent with DOH in an Institution

  State v. Torres (ICA April 8, 2021) Background. Richard Torres was charged by way of a felony information with promoting a dangerous drug in the third degree and a park violation. The warrant was served on him and bail was set at $11,000. He could not afford to bail out and remained in custody at the Oahu Community Correctional Center. Torres’s counsel moved for an examination to determine his fitness to proceed in the case pursuant to HRS Chapter 704. The circuit court—with the Hon. Judge Paul B. K. Wong presiding—granted the motion. More than three months the circuit court entered an order suspending proceedings and declared Torres unfit to proceed. The order committed Torres to the custody of the Director of Health and placed him at the Hawai'i State Hospital or other appropriate institution. Torres was also expressly ordered that he “shall not be authorized to leave the institution” without a prior court order. Nearly a year went by before he was found fit to proceed to tr

Trial Court must Instruct Jury on Statutory Definitions of Offense

  State v. Lajala (ICA March 30, 2021) Background. Malia Lajala was indicted with, among other things, the offense of hindering prosecution in the first degree. HRS § 710-1029(1). Her trial lasted more than a month. At the end of the trial, the prosecution proposed instructions on the elements of the offense, but did not define the words “rendered assistance,” one of the statutory terms in offense. One of Lajala’s co-defendants provided instructions that included the statutory definition of the term. Lajala joined in the request to have the instruction, but over the defense’s objection, the circuit court, with the Hon. Judge Robert Kim presiding, refused to provide it to the jury. Lajala was found guilty. Her motion for new trial raising the issue was denied. She was later convicted and sentenced. She appealed to the ICA. The record on appeal did not include the trial transcripts.   Getting the Right Instructions is on the Court, not the Parties. “In a jury trial, it is the cour

HRE Governs Motions in Limine about Evidence, No Explanation Required

  State v. Marroquin (HSC March 17, 2021) Background. Benito Marroquin III was charged with assault. He claimed self-defense and filed motions in limine seeking admission of statements made by eyewitnesses to the police. These statements were evidence that Marroquin punched the complainant because the complainant was choking him. Marroquin argued that the statement to the police was a statement of recent perception and, therefore, an exception to the hearsay rule pursuant to HRE Rule 804(b)(8). Marroquin also proffered in another motion in limine evidence from a defense investigator who interviewed another co-worker. This co-worker told the investigator that the complainant announced he “wasn’t going to take that from a punk like [Marroquin].” Marroquin also argued this statement was admissible pursuant to HRE Rule 804(b)(8). The circuit court, with the Hon. Judge Ronald Ibarra presiding, denied both motions. On the proffered evidence from the police officer, the circuit court state