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 trial. The order for fitness confirmed his pretrial status of $11,000 and returned him to OCCC.

 

After a bench trial, Torres was found guilty of the felony, but not the park closure. At sentencing, Torres noted that the time spent in the hospital must be deducted and counted as jail credit. The circuit court disagreed and sentenced to Torres to prison for three years with credit for time served. The circuit court also ordered Torres pay a $500 fine and the $105 Crime Victim Compensation Fee, but all other fees were waived.

 

Torres filed a motion for correction, reduction of sentence, and new trial. He argued that he was entitled to the credit for the time spent in a mental institution. The motion was denied. He appealed.

 

Credit for Time Served Included the Time Spent in the Mental Institution. The jail credit statute includes more than jail:

 

When a defendant who is sentenced to imprisonment has previously been detained in any State or local correctional or other institution . . ., such period of detention . . . shall be deducted from the minimum and maximum terms of such sentence. The officer having custody of the defendant shall furnish a certificate to the court at the time of sentencing, showing the length of such detention of the defendant prior to sentence in any State or local correctional or other institution[.]

 

HRS § 706-671(1). When a defendant is found to be unfit to proceed, the court “shall commit the defendant to the custody of the director of health to be placed in an appropriate institution for detention, assessment, care, and treatment[.]” HRS § 704-406(1).

 

HRS § 706-671(1) is Plain and Unambiguous. “When there is no ambiguity in the language of a statute, and the literal application of the language would not produce an absurd or unjust result, clearly inconsistent with the purposes and policies of the statute, there is no room for judicial construction and interpretation, and the statute must be given effect according to its plain and obvious meaning.” Tax Foundation of Hawai'i v. State, 144 Hawai'i 175, 203, 439 P.3d 127, 155 (2019).

 

The ICA found the language in the jail credit statute is unambiguous. Credit must be given for time spent in a jail “or other institution.” Moreover, the trial court “shall commit the defendant to the custody of the director of health” upon a finding of unfitness. HRS § 704-406(1). And so the ICA held that “a criminal defendant who has been detained pretrial in the custody of the Director of Health, in an institution for detention, assessment, care, and treatment pursuant to HRS § 704-406, shall receive credit for the time of detention in such institution, as well as receive any credit due under HRS § 706-61(1) for time served in a correctional institution.” The circuit court erred in not crediting Torres the time spent under the custody of the Director of Health.

 

It’s on the Sentencing Court to Calculate the Jail Credit. The ICA also noted that HRS § 706-671 requires a certificate of detention indicating the amount of time served up to sentencing. “[I]t is the duty of the sentencing court to determine the amount of credit to be awarded the defendant when presented with a claim for uncredited time.” State v. Mason, 79 Hawai'i 175, 184, 900 P.2d 172, 181 (App. 1995). On remand, the ICA required both the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Health to comply with HRS § 706-671 and furnish a certificate showing the length of detention prior to sentencing. After that, the circuit court must determine the amount of credit to be awarded.

 

The Circuit Court Plainly Erred in Imposing the Crime Victim Compensation Fee. The ICA also noted that even though Torres did not raise the issue on appeal, the crime victim compensation fee appears to be imposed as plain error. The circuit court found that even though Torres was unable to pay, the fee was imposed anyway. “If it is determined that the defendant is unable to pay the CVC fee, then the sentencing court must waive” it. State v. Pulgados, 148 Hawai'i 361, 370, 477 P.3d 155, 164 (App. 2020). The ICA noted that on remand, the circuit court should reconsider the imposition of the fee.

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