Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Hawaii
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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant's conviction and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that the trial court erred in determining that Defendant's confession was voluntarily made despite an interrogating officer informing him, untruthfully, that he did not pass a polygraph test, holding the deliberate falsehood regarding the polygraph results impermissibly tainted Defendant's confession. The trial court admitted Defendant's confession into evidence over defense objection. The court further ruled that during Defendant's trial testimony, when discussing the circumstances of his confession, could not mention the words "polygraph" or "test" or that the interrogating officer gave him inaccurate test results before his confession was elicited. The Supreme Court vacated the conviction, holding (1) the admission of Defendant's confession was not harmless error; (2) the exclusion of evidence of the circumstances surrounding the eliciting of Defendant's confession severely compromised Defendant's constitutional right to a fair trial and to present a complete defense; and (3) the court's jury instruction that defined an element of the charged offense contained a misstatement of law and was ambiguous and incomplete. View "State v. Matsumoto" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning the admissibility of a suggestive eyewitness or show-up identification, the Supreme Court set forth new rules and because the holdings apply only prospectively to events occurring after publication of this decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming Defendant's conviction. Defendant was charged with one count of burglary in the first degree. Before trial, Defendant filed a motion to suppress a witness's show-up identification. The State stipulated that the procedure employed by the police department was impermissibly suggestive, but the circuit court nonetheless denied the motion, finding the witness's identification sufficiently reliable. The jury then found Defendant guilty as charged. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed but set forth new rules in this opinion regarding whether an eyewitness identification procured through an impermissibly suggestive procedure is nonetheless sufficiently reliable under the totality of the circumstances to be admitted in evidence. View "State v. Kaneaikala" on Justia Law

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In this suit filed by a mother living on the island of Lana'i and her two school-age daughters, the Supreme Court held that the State was constitutionally required to make all reasonable efforts to provide access to Hawaiian immersion education. Article X, section 4 of the Hawai'i Constitution imposes on the State a duty to provide for a Hawaiian education program in public schools that is reasonably calculated to revive the Hawaiian language. Today, there are Hawaiian immersion schools on five of the major Hawaiian Islands, but no such program exists on the island of Lana'i. Plaintiffs argued that the provision of the Constitution obligating the State to provide for a Hawaiian education program in public schools requires the State to provide her daughters with access to a public Hawaiian immersion education. The Supreme Court agreed and vacated the circuit court's judgment insofar as it granted the State's motion for partial summary judgment, holding that providing reasonable access to Hawaiian immersion education is currently essential to reviving the Hawaiian language, and therefore, it is a necessary component of any program that is reasonably calculated to achieve that goal. View "Clarabal v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction for assault in the second degree, holding that Defendant's constitutional right to confrontation was violated when the circuit court refused to allow cross-examination of the complaining witness on topics relevant to her bias, interest, or motive for testifying against Defendant, and the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred in refusing to allow him to cross-examine the complaining witness regarding her pending misdemeanor assault charge arising from the same incident for which Defendant was charged, as well as her probation status resulting from a separate assault charge. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that Defendant's constitutional right to confront witnesses was violated, and because the exclusion of the information might have contributed to the jury's decision to convict, the violation of Defendant's right to confrontation was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacating the circuit court's order granting Defendant's motion to suppress, holding that the police lacked reasonable suspicion to seize Defendant while he was lying next to the beach in Waikiki. Defendant was approached by police officers while he was lying on a concrete slab adjacent to an apartment complex on Waikiki beach. After an officer asked Defendant to provide his identification and Defendant provided a Veterans Affairs medical card to the officer, the officer noticed Defendant was grasping something in his backpack. An officer pulled the bag from Defendant, and a collapsible baton fell out of the backpack. Defendant grabbed the baton and held it up as if to brandish it, but the police officers wrested control of the baton away from Defendant and arrested him. Defendant was charged with one count of carrying a deadly weapon. The circuit court granted Defendant's motion to suppress evidence of the baton. The ICA vacated the circuit court's order, concluding that the seizure was incident to a valid weapons search. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the police violated Defendant's constitutional rights by approaching him, asking for his identification, and seizing his backpack. View "State v. Weldon" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant's conviction for operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant, holding that the district court erroneously advised Defendant with regard to his right to testify in the context of a consolidated suppression hearing and trial. After he was charged, Defendant filed a motion to suppress statements he allegedly made to the police officer who arrested him. The district court consolidated the hearing on Defendant's motion to suppress with his bench trial and provided Defendant with several advisements about his right to testify. Defendant declined to testify, and the district court granted the motion to suppress in part. The court then found Defendant guilty. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated Defendant's conviction and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that Defendant did not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waive his right to testify for the purposes of the pre-trial suppression hearing. View "State v. Chang" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals and vacated Defendant's conviction of promoting a dangerous drug in the third degree and unlawful use of drug paraphernalia, holding that Defendant's motion to suppress should have been granted because he was seized longer than was necessary for the police to conduct an investigation confirming the absence of a required tax decal. The pat-down of Defendant occurred after a police officer noticed Defendant riding a bicycle lacking a tax decal, which is required by law on all bicycles with wheels twenty inches or more in diameter. After the time necessary for the police to conduct the investigation confirming the officer's reasonable suspicion that the tax decal was missing and to issue a citation for the missing decal, a warrant check came back from dispatch indicating that Defendant had an outstanding warrant. Defendant was arrested based on the outstanding warrant, and a search incident to arrest revealed drugs and drug paraphernalia. The Supreme Court held (1) Defendant's arrest was illegal because the warrant check came back after the span of time necessary for the police to write and issue the citation; and (2) therefore, the evidence obtained as a result of the arrest was fruit of the poisonous tree. View "State v. Iona" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant's convictions and remanded this case to the circuit court for further proceedings, holding that multiple instances of improper prosecutorial conduct cumulatively jeopardized Defendant's right to a fair trial. Defendant was convicted of murder in the second degree and carrying or use of a firearm in the commission of a separate felony. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. Defendant appealed, arguing, among other things, that the circuit court erred in denying his motions for mistrial and motion for a new trial due to prosecutorial misconduct. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the cumulative effect of the prosecutor's improper conduct was so prejudicial as to jeopardize Defendant's right a fair trial. View "State v. Pasene" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the district court's judgment finding Defendant guilty of obstructing a highway or public passage after Defendant appeared pro se before the court, holding that the record on appeal did not indicate a valid waiver of counsel. At Defendant's plea hearing Defendant signed a form waiving his right to counsel. The court engaged in a colloquy with Defendant. Thereafter, the district court found Defendant guilty as charged. The ICA affirmed the district court's judgment. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment on appeal and the district court's judgment, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, Defendant did not provide an intelligent and knowing waiver of his right to counsel. View "State v. Fujiyoshi" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order and judgment of the circuit court granting the State’s motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction this challenge to the State’s implementation of Haw. Rev. Stat. 248-2.6, holding that the State’s application of section 248-2.6 was consistent with the statute’s plain language and legislative intent and that the statute does not violate the state or federal constitutions. Section 248-2.6 authorizes the State to be reimbursed for its costs in administering a rail surcharge on state general excise and use taxes on behalf of the City and County of Honolulu. Tax Foundation of Hawai’i filed a class action on behalf of all taxpayers in the City and County of Honolulu challenging the State’s application of section 248-2.6. The circuit court granted the State’s motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded with instructions to grant the State’s motion for summary judgment on the merits, holding (1) the circuit court had jurisdiction to hear Tax Foundation’s claims; (2) Tax Foundation had standing; (3) the State did not violate the statute by retaining ten percent of the surcharge gross proceeds; and (4) the State’s application of section 248-2.6 did not violate the state or federal constitutions. View "Tax Foundation of Hawaii v. State" on Justia Law