Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Hawaii Supreme Court

by
Petitioner was adjudged guilty of operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant in violation of Haw. Rev. Stat. 291E-61(a)(1). Petitioner challenged the sufficiency of the complaint against her for the first time on appeal, alleging that section 291E-61(a)(1) was deficient for failing to allege mens rea. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed the district court’s judgment. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment and remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaint against Petitioner without prejudice, holding that because the complaint failed to charge a requisite state of mind, the ICA’s judgment must be vacated and the charge dismissed without prejudice because it violated due process. View "State v. Avilla " on Justia Law

by
After a bench trial, Petitioner was convicted of abuse of a family or household member. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the family court did not ensure that he had “fully” waived his right to a jury trial. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed, concluding that under the totality of the circumstances, Petitioner had validly waived his right to a jury trial. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment and the family court’s judgment, holding that the family court failed to ensure that Petitioner’s waiver of his right to a jury trial was voluntary. Remanded for a new trial. View "State v. Baker" on Justia Law

by
Defendant was tried for attempted murder in the second degree. During the proceedings, Defendant expressed his desire to proceed pro se. The circuit court determined that Defendant waived his right to counsel, and Defendant was pro se for the rest of the trial. After the jury returned a guilty verdict, Defendant’s standby counsel filed a motion to withdraw as standby counsel and that substitute counsel be appointed to assist Defendant post-trial and on appeal. The circuit court allowed standby counsel to withdraw but did not appoint substitute counsel for Defendant’s post-verdict motions or for sentencing. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding that the circuit court erred (1) by not appointing substitute counsel for Defendant’s post-verdict motions because post-verdict proceedings are critical stages in the prosecution; and (2) by not appointing Defendant substitute counsel for sentencing. View "State v. Pitts" on Justia Law

by
Defendant was charged with electronic enticement in the first degree (Count 1) and promoting child abuse in the third degree (Count 2). The charges were severed. The State then proceeded to trial on Count 1 and appealed the circuit court’s suppression order as it related to count 2. In relevant part, the court suppressed a statement made by Defendant after he was arrested and evidence seized from Defendant’s residence pursuant to a misdated search warrant. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of electronic enticement. Both parties appealed. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed Defendant’s conviction and vacated the suppression order. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the ICA’s judgment, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in affirming Defendant’s conviction for electronic enticement; (2) suppression of Defendant’s statement was proper where law enforcement officers failed to obtain a voluntary waiver of Defendant’s Miranda rights; and (3) the circuit court erred in suppressing evidence obtained pursuant to the search warrant. Remanded. View "State v. McKnight" on Justia Law

by
The State charged Defendant with harassment. Before trial commenced, the district court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground that disjunctive wording in the complaint made it difficult to prepare a defense. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed, concluding that because the complaint charged two forms of non-synonymous conduct disjunctively, the charge did not provide Defendant with adequate notice. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) when charging a defendant under a single subsection of a statute, the charge may be worded disjunctively in the language of the statute as long as the acts charged are reasonably related so that the charge provides sufficient notice to the defendant; and (2) the complaint in this case met due process requirements regardless of whether the disjunctively charged acts were synonymous or non-synonymous. View "State v. Codiamat" on Justia Law

by
Respondents, the City and County of Honolulu and certain individuals, banned Petitioners, two stagehands, from working at certain City-owned facilities based on Petitioners' involvement in a charitable concert featuring the City's mayor. After a jury-waived trial, the circuit court entered judgment in favor of Respondents on all claims, including Petitioners' claims that the ban was unconstitutional. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the lower courts' judgments, holding that the City's ban interfered with Petitioners' liberty interests under the Hawaii Constitution and that the City failed to satisfy due process by instituting the ban without giving Petitioners notice and an opportunity to be heard. Remanded. View "Minton v. Quintal" on Justia Law

by
Defendant was charged with the offense of kidnapping. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of kidnapping. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of unlawful imprisonment in the first degree. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed, holding that any error in failing to instruct the jury as to first degree unlawful imprisonment was harmless because the jury convicted Defendant of the greater charged offense and, thus, would not have reached the absent lesser offense. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of conviction and sentence, holding (1) the circuit court should have given a jury instruction on the lesser-included offense of unlawful imprisonment in the first degree; and (2) the failure to give the instruction was not harmless, overruling State v. Haanio to the extent that Haanio would hold such error to be harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Remanded. View "Flores v. State " on Justia Law

by
After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of robbery in the second degree, which requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant used "force against the person of anyone present with the intent to overcome that person's physical resistance or physical power of resistance." Appellant, who took a handbag out of Nordstrom without paying for it, argued on appeal that the evidence was insufficient to prove he had used force with the intent to overcome two of the store's loss prevention officers' physical resistance or physical power of resistance." In this case, no specific unanimity instruction was given to the jury informing them that they were required to agree unanimously as to the identity of the person against whom Appellant used force. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court's failure to give a specific unanimity instruction constituted plain error, and the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Remanded for a new trial. View "State v. Getz" on Justia Law

by
After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of assault in the second degree, terroristic threatening in the second degree, and terroristic threatening in the first degree. Defendant appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in denying his request for the written transcripts or the DVD video recordings of his codefendant's trial. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the lower courts' judgments, holding that Defendant demonstrated that the requested transcripts or DVD video recordings were necessary for an effective defense where the charges against Defendant and his codefendant arose from the same incident and involved identical facts, and the same key witness testified against Defendant and his codefendant at their respective trials. Remanded for a new trial. View "State v. Scott" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner was orally arraigned and charged with excessive speeding in violation of Haw. Rev. Stat. 291C-105(a)(1). After a trial, the trial court found Petitioner guilty as charged. Petitioner appealed, and the Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) affirmed. Petitioner appealed, arguing that the oral charge failed to allege the required intentional, knowing, and reckless states of mind and that the oral charge was therefore defective. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment, holding (1) because the charge against Petitioner did not allege that Petitioner acted intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly, the charge failed to allege the requisite state of mind; and (2) the State failed to lay an adequate foundation to admit the laser gun reading of Petitioner's vehicle's speed into evidence during trial. Remanded. View "State v. Apollonio" on Justia Law