Domestic Violence Intervention Classes can only be Ordered as Condition of Probation

 State v. Agdinaoay (HSC November 30, 2021)

Background. Artemio Agdinaoay pleaded no contest to the offense of violating a temporary restraining order. The sentencing court—with the Hon. Judge Matthew Viola presiding—ordered Agdinaoay to serve 181 days jail and complete the domestic violence intervention classes (DVI). He appealed the sentence. The ICA affirmed and the HSC accepted his petition for writ of certiorari.


Four Types of Sentencing Dispositions (and DVI isn’t one). The HSC agreed with Agdinaoay that the sentence was unlawful. Criminal sentencing is governed by Hawai'i Revised Statutes (HRS) Chapter 706. “No sentence shall be imposed otherwise in accordance with this chapter.” HRS § 706-600. There are only four types of sentencing dispositions: probation, fines, imprisonment, and community service. HRS § 706-605.


The HSC pointed out that DVI classes are not among the four dispositions; it may be imposed as a condition of probation. HRS § 706-624(2). The HSC observed that if DVI is not imposed as a condition of probation, a defendant’s noncompliance is unenforceable. According to the HSC, the defendant cannot be charged with contempt in violation of HRS § 710-1077(g). Contempt arises when a person “knowingly disobeys or resists the process, injunction, or other mandate of a court.” Id. The HSC noted that a sentence “is neither a process, nor an injunction, nor a mandate of the court.” In the end, the HSC held that DVI can only be imposed as a condition of probation.


The jail time is unlawful too. The HSC also examined the 181 days jail. Courts can impose as a condition of probation 2 years jail for class A felonies, 18 months for Class B felonies, 12 months for Cs, six months for misdemeanors, and five days for petty misdemeanors. HRS § 706-624(2)(a). When the sentencing court “combine[s] probation and imprisonment in a  sentence, it may do so if imprisonment is made as a condition of the sentence rather than a separate sentence, and only up to the maximum period of six months in the case of a misdemeanor.” State v. Sumera, 97 Hawai'i 430, 435, 39 P.3d 557, 562 (2002).


Here, the family court ordered 181 days—that’s more than six months in the case of a misdemeanor—and DVI. The HSC held that the family court erred. It could have either sentenced Agdinaoay to up to one year in jail or probation with DVI and no more than 180 days jail—but not both.


The HSC also addressed specific provision in the TRO statute. “A person convicted [of violating a TRO] shall undergo domestic violence intervention . . . .” HRS § 586-4(e). The statute also states that “[n]othing in this section shall be construed as limiting the discretion of the judge to impose additional sanctions authorized in sentencing for a misdemeanor.” Id. According to the HSC, this language cannot override the statutory framework in HRS Chapter 706. The HSC concluded that this language mandates DVI as a necessary condition of probation—if the sentencing court imposes probation. The HSC vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing.


Chief Justice Recktenwald’s Dissent. The Chief Justice disagreed with the majority’s interpretation of HRS § 586-4(e). “[W]here the statutory language is plain and unambiguous, our sole duty is to give effect to its plain and obvious meaning.” State v. Wheeler, 121 Hawai'i 383, 390, 219 P.3d 1170, 1177 (2009). For the Chief Justice, the language in HRS § 586-4(e) plainly and unequivocally requires the family court to order DVI as part of the sentence. The Chief Justice rejected the interpretation that the basic statutory framework in HRS Chapter 706 controls over the specific sentencing provisions in HRS § 586-4(e). The CJ also noted potentially unintended consequences for this holding. Drunk driving convictions specifically preclude courts from probation. HRS § 291E-61(b). And yet, courts are required to order the defendant to take classes and a substance abuse evaluation. HRS § 291E-61(h). The CJ wrote that the holding here would invalidate these sentencing provisions. For the CJ, this was not what the legislature intended. Justice Nakayama joined.


Graham said…
Yes, if someone is convicted of driving under the influence, based upon this decision no court can impose the requirement of classes, nor an evaluation.

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