Hawaii DUI Laws & Attorneys
by Joshua Dale
Don’t let the trade winds, the black and sugar sand beaches, the mellow temperature and the abundance of fun in Hawaii get away from you. Have too much to drink and then drive in this paradise state and you’ll have cope with stiff Hawaii DUI laws, which are anything but paradise. Remember, Aloha means both hello to fines and criminal penalties, and goodbye to your driver’s license and possibly your freedom. A Hawaii DUI is also called an OVUII, or operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant.
In Hawaii the term DUI means Driving While Intoxicated and not having the normal use of your mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, or a combination of these or any other substances into the body. However, a person is also intoxicated if impaired due to alcohol or other drugs regardless of blood alcohol content (BAC).
The Hawaii DUI “per se” law states that a blood alcohol content of .08% by itself constitutes impairment to a degree that you are assumed to be unsafe behind the wheel. However, you can also be prosecuted for driving “under the influence” if it can be proven that you were driving in an unsafe manner. Under this theory circumstantial evidence, such as slurred speech, bloodshot watery eyes, unbalanced coordination, hazardous driving, and field sobriety tests can be proof that a driver was “under the influence.”
If you haven’t been drinking or you believe that you might have been “impaired” from a benign source, such as alcohol based paint or solvents, mouthwash, prescription or over-the-counter drugs, be aware that you can still be arrested for a Hawaii DUI, even though you are not “legally drunk,” and are still subject to ALR (automatic license revocation).
You should note that you have the right to a second BAC test at your own expense at a place of your choice. When blood is drawn with or without a request from law enforcement, it is extremely important to have your Hawaii DUI attorney contact the hospital or lab immediately with notice of the federal confidentiality law and to assert your patient’s rights regarding the privacy of medical records.
After being charged with a Hawaii DUI, you’re going to face two adversaries: the criminal courts and the Hawaii Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Following your DUI arrest, you will receive a temporary 30-day license and an administrative hearing before the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) separate from any court proceeding. DMV hearings may be a crucial opportunity to let your Hawaii DUI defense attorney cross-examine, rebut testimony, and confront evidence offered by those involved in your arrest and investigation. It is possible to receive a driver’s license suspension for a DUI conviction and a suspension for a BAC test refusal or failure. DMV penalties usually run concurrently (at the same time) with court sanctions.
You have the right to make a timely request (14 days) for an administrative hearing with the Hawaii DMV to try avoiding losing driving privileges. Your license will be lost if a hearing is not requested, for not appearing, or for an unsuccessful outcome. And DMV sanctions can also be imposed even if you are found not guilty in a criminal court case.
Be advised that Hawaii has an out-of-state Driver’s License Compact Agreement. This means that Hawaii DUI convictions will be reported to your home state which will generally take action to suspend your license. Offenses for out-of-state drivers can also create other complications. Consequently, it’s imperative that you contact a local Hawaii DUI attorney to walk you through the procedures and insure that you don’t face complications with bail, jail and your driving privileges.
Across the country DUI laws and evidentiary procedures are being challenged, while at the same time state laws are becoming more severe. To be certain that you have the correct and current knowledge contact a Hawaii DUI specialist. In any case, when you are stopped and arrested for suspicion of a Hawaii DUI, request to see a DUI attorney, the sooner the better.
– Info You Should Know –
Why Was I Stopped?
Basically you were stopped because of an equipment failure or an officer had probable cause to think you were driving in an impaired manner. Arrests for drunk driving in every state focuses on four areas: driving patterns, physical appearance, field sobriety tests and chemical tests.
Not all reasons offered by officers are always legal. Check with a Hawaii DUI attorney who will examine all the different aspects of your case, will defend you aggressively and try to mitigate any penalties.
Should I Have Talked To the Cop?
Remember that you don’t have to answer any questions that will incriminate you. Most people say that they have had a "couple of drinks” which is not necessarily incriminating. However such "statements of consumption" will be used against them in court or at a hearing.
And if you plan to refuse a sobriety test – which may not be the best action – you should inform the officer who stopped you that you would rather wait until instructed by a Hawaii DUI lawyer. But be advised if you refuse the test under the implied consent law you can lose your license on the spot, and probably for many months.
Did I Have A Right To Make A Call?
The police are not required to advise you of this right. But once a request is made, they are obligated to provide an opportunity to make a call, hopefully to a Hawaii DUI specialist.
The penalties and the numerous, complicated laws relating to motor vehicles, DUI charges and Hawaii drunk driving laws should be taken very seriously. Hawaii DUI convictions and penalties can be long lasting and severe, both in court and with the Hawaii Department of Public Safety, Driver and Vehicle Services, which regulates your driving privileges.
Experienced and skilled legal counsel may be able to help maximize your defenses thereby mitigate your penalties. A Hawaii DUI defense attorney will level the playing field between you and the prosecution in an effort to provide and preserve your constitutional rights.
When considering consulting a Hawaii DUI attorney, take into account the impact of a criminal conviction: possible loss of voting privileges, increased cost or cancellation of auto insurance, lost educational opportunities, inability to rent or own cars, restrictions on travel, damage to security clearances, job barriers, possible harm to professional credentials or certifications, and the loss of freedom. Don’t you think these rights, possessions, achievements and abilities and are worth protecting?
What’s A Hawaii DUI Defense Attorney Going To Cost?
One of the biggest concerns for people charged with driving while intoxicated is attorney fees. As cases vary, so does cost. Most people don’t realize that money spent now on skillful help from a Hawaii DUI attorney might save them thousands of dollars in the years to come.
What Are Court Costs?
Additional costs outside of the fine for court or administrative services, regulated by state penal or vehicle codes violated. They can be costly.
Did I Have To Take a Field Sobriety Test (FST)?
Unlike blood and breath testing, submitting to a "field sobriety test" is voluntary, but do not expect an officer to inform you of this. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the only tests that have been shown to have some relevance to establishing legal intoxication are the One Leg Stand, the Heel-to Toe and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN). The results of these tests will be entered as evidence against you. But even under laboratory conditions, these tests have only been established to be accurate in predicting blood alcohol content above .10% in 66% to 77% of the time.
What if I Refused To Take a BAC (blood alcohol content) Test?
Refusal can carry penalties which may be more severe than a DUI conviction. The arresting officer will take your license and it will be automatically suspended. You may request a hearing within 15 days of the arrest to contest the validity of the confiscation or driver’s license suspension.
This hearing is not a trial and producing evidence of innocence and the burden of proof bears upon the accused.
Can I Plea Bargain?
After being arraigned, your DUI attorney will meet with the prosecutor to negotiate the merits of your case. Court dates are crowded so it is not unusual for a DUI case to seem mired in delays. However, delay can work to your benefit as prosecutors and judges work to try to clear court calendars.
A plea bargain means that you agree to plead guilty to some lesser charge or having your attorney and prosecutor mitigate the penalties. Practiced Hawaii DUI attorneys often times will be able to negotiate a plea to a lesser charge as many cases are resolved prior to trial. The plea bargain is extremely advantageous to anyone accused of a Hawaii DUI, but remember even a conviction to a lesser charge will still count as a ‘prior’ for calculating penalties for future offenses.
It is next to impossible to plea bargain a Hawaii drunk driving charge without an experienced Hawaii DUI lawyer. Often effective DUI counsel will be able to negotiate a plea to a lesser charge.
What Is A Nolo Contendere Plea?
In legal terms, nolo contendere (Latin for “I do not wish to contest”) is an alternative to a guilty or not guilty plea. While not technically a guilty plea, a nolo plea has many of the same effects, but with some mitigating circumstances. In most states you can only plea nolo once in DUI cases. Generally a judge decides whether a nolo plea will be accepted, and it is not always available.
In any case, without services of a veteran Hawaii DUI specialist, specialized pleas or plea bargaining is not possible.
Is Being Punished by the Hawaii PDS and the Criminal Courts Double Jeopardy?
Like most states, Hawaii law permits the enforcement of administrative penalties in addition to court punishments. That’s because, as the state considers driving a privilege, not a right, and therefore not subject to civil liberties. The Hawaii Driver’s License Services administers driver’s licenses, imposes civil penalties, serves as the judge, jury and also deals metes out punishment.
What if I Am An Out-Of-State Driver?
Hawaii DUI convictions will be reported to your home state, which will generally take action to suspend your license. Offenses for out-of-state drivers can also create other complications. Consequently, it’s imperative that you contact a local Hawaii DUI attorney to walk you through the procedures and insure that you don’t face complications with bail, jail and your driving privileges.
What Happens In Court?
You’ll have to make several appearances. In a criminal case you have the right to a jury trial with presumption of innocence, but once convicted, it can be up to the judge what punishment you will receive. The sentencing range, and whether the offense will be a misdemeanor or a felony, is based on a number of things, including the number of prior convictions including any previous Hawaii administrative or criminal court drunk driving suspensions, for refusal to submit to a BAC test, or any “operating while intoxicated” convictions in other states. There are also penalty enhancements due to aggravated circumstances.
In addition, a judge may require you to participate in alcohol or drug treatment programs as part of a parole (probation) program, or have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle, or even have your vehicle seized and forfeited.
Is There A “Look Back” Period?
A look back period is the amount of time that has to pass before a judge can look back into your driving record to use past convictions to increase present penalties. In Hawaii it is 5 years from past arrest date to present arrest date. This means that anyone arrested for a DUI within 5 years of a present offense will be charged with a ‘prior’, with increased penalties and punishment.
Are There Alternatives to Jail?
Your Hawaii DUI specialist may be able to make arrangements for drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, sober living homes, home arrest with electronic monitoring, work release programs and community service.
Can I Get a Hardship Driver's License?
Yes. See below under conditional licenses.
What About Enhanced Punishments For Aggravated Hawaii DUI Convictions?
Many circumstances may lead to sentence enhancements: prior DUI convictions, BAC of 0.15% (carries mandatory minimum 6 months to 4 years loss of license), the presence of a child in the car (15 years or under carries an additional $500 fine and another 2 days in jail), speeding, reckless driving, and causing an accident with injuries or property damage.
Any time you face multiple or “aggravated”charges, or if death, injuries or sizeable property damage occurs, the fallout for Hawaii multiple convictions will get very heavy, including thousands of dollars in fines, mandatory years of imprisonment, massive restitution and of loss of license and vehicles for years, if not permanently.
Consequently, we strongly recommend retaining an experienced Hawaii DUI attorney in order to secure the best possible outcome of a potentially severe situation.
What About My Insurance?
You insurance rates will probably increase or be cancelled. Rates for your family members, or even for your employer (if you use a company car), may increase as well.
– Hawaii DUI Criminal Penalties –
$150 to $1,000 fine.
90 to 1 year day loss of driver’s license
14 hour minimum substance abuse rehabilitation program (plus fee).
72 hours of community service or 48 hours of community service and 5 days in jail.
$157 in Court Fees.
$100 DUI assessment fee.
$125 criminal injuries compensation fund.
$25 fee to the Neurotrauma Special Fund.
$250 possible Drug Demand Reduction fee.
2nd Offense in 5 Years
$500 to $1,500 fine.
5 days in jail.
All above fees.
1 to 4 year loss of license (depending on priors).
Minimum 240 hours of community service or 5 to 14 days in jail.
Possible ignition mandatory.
Possible vehicle forfeiture.
3rd Offense in 5 Years
$500 to $2,500 fine.
All above fees.
10 to 30 days imprisonment.
Lifetime loss of license.
$25 fee payable to the Neurotrauma Special Fund.
Forfeiture of the offender’s vehicle.
Habitual Offender (3 or More Offenses)
5 years in jail
Or 5 years of probation, including the following conditions:
1 to 5 years loss of license.
10 days in jail.
Referral to a substance abuse counselor and attendance in any programs ordered.
$25 fee to the Neurotrauma Special Fund.
Possible imposition of SR – 22 high risk insurance policy.
14 hours attendance at a substance abuse and counseling program.
90 to 180 day loss of license.
$150 to $1,000 fine.
Up to 5 days in jail.
Or a minimum 72 hours of community service.
Eligible for conditional license after 30 days for 18 and older.
1 year loss of license.
$500 to $1,500 fine.
100 hours of community service work or not less than 2 to 14 days jail.
1 year to a maximum of 5 years loss of license.
$500 to $2,500 fine.
10 days to 30 days jail.
After 30 days, offenders may request an administrative hearing for a conditional permit.
Must be gainfully employed.
Have no access to other transportation.
Used for work, school, treatment or medical programs
Substance abuse treatment and/or counseling.
Refusing a Chemical Test
1 year loss of license with no prior in 5 years.
2 year loss of license with one prior in 5 years.
4 year loss of license with 2 priors in 5 years.
Lifetime license revocation 3 or more arrests in 10 years.
– DMV Administrative Penalties –
The Administrative Driver’s License Revocation Office is responsible for handling the administrative penalties associated with a DUI offense in Hawaii. The following is a basic list of penalties imposed by the various DMV offices.
Within 8 business days after your arrest, you will receive a DMV notice of a decision indicating whether to suspend your license. Included is a request form asking for a further review of the evidence. This request must be mailed within 6 days back to the DMV, which will schedule a hearing.
Mandatory substance abuse assessment, education and treatment.
Possible ignition interlock device installed in vehicle.
1st offense 3 months loss of license.
Substance abuse program.
2nd offense 1 year loss of license.
3rd offense 1 to 5 years loss of license with possible lifetime loss of license.
Refusal of BAC Test
1st offense 1 year loss of license.
2nd and subsequent offenses up to 5 years loss of license.
New laws have recently been passed increasing penalties for enhanced BAC of .15%.
BAC of .02%
180 days loss of license.
$150 to $500 fine.
Up to 36 hours of community service.
2nd DUI (within 5 years of a prior):
1 year loss of license.
$300 to $1,000 fine
Up to 50 hours of community service.
3rd Offense (with in 5 years of a prior):
2 years loss of license.
$300 to $500 fine.
Up to 100 hours of community service.
Mandatory substance abuse program for all the above.
If offender is under 18, 180 day loss of license, or until 18th birthday, whichever is longer (plus any of the above fines).
1st offense 1 year disqualification.
3 years while hauling hazardous material.
Subsequent offenses lifetime disqualification.
– Disclaimer –
Only experienced Hawaii DUI attorneys should provide you with bonafide legal advice concerning Hawaii DUI laws. Consequently, the aforementioned information on this web site should not be construed as legal advice, but rather suggestions and a range of helpful information. It should not be substituted for speaking with accredited Hawaii DUI attorneys. There is no warranty, expressed or implied herein. These issues are complicated, laws change and litigation takes experience. Please let us refer you to a seasoned professional Hawaii DUI attorney specializing in DUI cases.
– Citations –
Hawaiian stature 291.1/292.7
Commercial driver’s license. 286-239(B)./ HRS § 249-7(b).
Unverified Other Research
Hawaii DUI Penalties
Some of the tough Hawaii DUI penalties include:
First DUI conviction
2-5 days in jail
72 hours of community service
$150-1,000 in fines
Mandatory substance abuse education
1 year administrative license suspension
Second DUI conviction (within 5 years)
30 days in jail
240 hours of community service
$500-1,500 in fines
18 months administrative license suspension
Third DUI conviction (within 5 years)
10-30 days in jail
$500-2,500 in fines
2 years administrative license suspension
Breath Test Refusal Penalties
First refusal: One year administrative license suspension
Any additional refusals: Two-five years of suspension