The DUI OVUII Complaint / Charge

All DUI’s / OVUII’s are charged through a written complaint.  You will receive a written complaint at your arraignment.  This is a very important document in that it notifies you of the charge against you.  The Hawaii Supreme Court has, historically, taken this requirement very seriously.  They have held that it must state all elements of the offense and notify a person of the charge.  This seems, at first glance, fairly simple.  However, the charges must be pled in such a way that “a person of common understanding” would understand them – and not how a qualified DUI / OVUII lawyer such as Mr. Holcomb would understand them.  This is not always very obvious and could result in the dismissal of your DUI / OVUII case.

In fact, in November 2009 the Hawaii Supreme Court issued an opinion, State v. Wheeler.  In Wheeler the Court held that, apparently all, prior complaints were invalid.  The complaints alleged that the Defendant was operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol in violation of the statutory language.  However, the complaints did not specify where the offense had occurred.  Because in Hawaii, you can only commit DUI / OVUII on a public way, street or highway, the complaints were held defective.  A person of common understanding who read the complaint would believe that the crime could be committed anywhere – even when not on a public way, street or highway.  The result was that approximately 1500 DUI / OVUII cases were dismissed.  The Court did not have jurisdiction because a charge had not been properly brought.

More recently (April 2012), the Court held that the complaints were still deficient.  This time, the complaints omitted mens rea, the state of mind (or culpability) that the Defendant must have when operating the vehicle.  The crime of DUI / OVUII in Hawaii requires that the driver act “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly.”  The Court held that this was not an element but that the State must prove that state of mind to convict a Defendant.  The fact that this makes little sense is beyond the scope of this webpage.   Nevertheless, the Court held that the complaints are “fatally defective.”  Past cases suggest that this issue is also jurisdictional and numerous cases should be dismissed.  At the time of this writing, however, the Hawaii Supreme Court has not made this clear.  The lower courts are resisting dismissing these cases.  Yet, this issue will most certainly be determined on appeal.

Honolulu Drunk Driving Defense

At the time of this writing, prosecutors are scrambling to correct the OVUII / DUI complaints.  It appears to the defense bar that the complaints, yet again, are fatally defective.  This type of issue underscores the importance of hiring a qualified DUI / OVUII lawyer such as found at Holcomb Law, LLLC.  If these issues are not raised before trial, a much less favorable analysis of the sufficiency of the complaint than if the issues were raised before trial.  In other words, you could lose an otherwise winnable case because your lawyer did not object.  It is much more difficult (and expensive) to have a conviction overturned if the issues are not timely raised.  This just an example of the numerous reasons you need a qualified, experienced, hard-working DUI defense attorney, such as Rick Holcomb, on your side.

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