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State v. Bowman

Supreme Court of Hawaii

May 9, 2016

STATE OF HAWAI'I, Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MAX C.K. BOWMAN, Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant.

CERTIORARI TO THE INTERMEDIATE COURT OF APPEALS (CAAP-13-0005863; CASE NO. 3DTC-13-067572)

Benjamin E. Lowenthal and Jo Kim for petitioner.

Dale Y. Ross for respondent.

RECKTENWALD, C.J., NAKAYAMA, McKENNA, POLLACK, AND WILSON, JJ.

OPINION

NAKAYAMA, J.

I. Introduction

Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant Max C.K. Bowman (Bowman) applied for a writ of certiorari from the Intermediate Court of Appeals' (ICA) March 25, 2015 judgment on appeal entered pursuant to its February 27, 2015 opinion (opinion). The ICA affirmed the District Court of the Third Circuit's (district court) November 7, 2013 judgment of conviction.

Bowman is a farmer who was transporting cabbages following a harvest in the back of his uncovered truck. When he was on the highway, some of the produce spilled out onto the road. A police officer cited Bowman under Hawai'i Revised Statutes (HRS) § 291C-131, which prohibits spilling loads on highways.

During his bench trial, Bowman testified that he fell under an exemption for vehicles carrying agricultural produce, which is contained in subsection (c) of HRS § 291C-131. Although the exemption requires that the owner of the vehicle provide for the reasonable removal of all produce spilled on the highway, Bowman testified that he felt that it would not have been reasonable in this case to risk life and limb in order to retrieve a few leaves of cabbage in the middle of the highway. The State did not present any evidence rebutting this testimony. At the end of the trial, the district court found Bowman guilty and issued him a fine, stating that if Bowman had picked up the cabbage he would have been acquitted.

The ICA affirmed the district court's holding. On appeal before this court, Bowman argues that the ICA gravely erred in holding that he was required to present evidence on every element of the defense before he met his burden of production. Bowman also argues that the ICA erred in upholding the district court's ruling that the prosecution met its burden of proof.

We conclude that the ICA did not err in holding that evidence needed to be adduced as to every element of the defense in order for Bowman to meet his burden of production. However, because we conclude that "reasonable removal" under HRS § 291C-131(c) requires removal of spilled agricultural produce only when the removal is reasonable, we hold that Bowman met his burden of production. Further, there is no evidence that the prosecution met its burden of proof in negating the elements of Bowman's defense. Thus, the ICA erred in affirming the district court's holding that there was sufficient evidence to support Bowman's conviction. Therefore, the ICA's judgment on appeal and the district court's judgment of conviction are reversed.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Proceedings Before the District Court

On November 7, 2013, Bowman was orally arraigned in court as follows:

On or about the 28th day of August, 2013, in Hamakua, state and county of Hawai'i, Max Bowman was the operator of a motor vehicle being moved on a highway, which vehicle was not so constructed, covered, or loaded as to prevent any of its load from dropping, sifting, leaking, blowing, spilling, or otherwise escaping therefrom, thereby a violation of Section 291C-101(a) (sic), Hawai'i Revised Statutes as Amended.

HRS § 291C-131 (2007 Repl.) states in full:

(a) No vehicle shall be moved on any highway, unless the vehicle is so constructed, covered, or loaded as to prevent any of its load other than clear water or feathers from live birds from dropping, sifting, leaking, blowing, spilling, or otherwise escaping therefrom, except that sand may be dropped for the purpose of securing traction, or water or other substance may be sprinkled on a highway in cleaning or maintaining the highway.
(b) No vehicle shall be driven or moved on any highway when any load thereon is not entirely within the body of the vehicle; provided that this prohibition shall not apply if the load is securely fastened by means of clamps, ropes, straps, cargo nets, or other suitable mechanical device to prevent such load from dropping onto the highway or from shifting in any manner and, further, no vehicle shall be operated on any highway with any load thereon projecting beyond the extreme width of the vehicle.
(c) Vehicles carrying agricultural produce from fields during harvesting shall be exempt from the requirements of this section but the owner of the vehicle must provide for the reasonable removal of all such produce spilled or dropped on the highway.
(d) No vehicle shall be driven or moved on any highway with any load if the load is not entirely covered by a cargo net, tarpaulin, canopy, or other material designed to cover the load to prevent the load from escaping from the vehicle, where the load consists partially or entirely of loose paper, loose rubbish, plastics, empty cartons, dirt, sand, or gravel.
(e) Vehicles transporting a granular load consisting of dirt, sand, or gravel on any highway shall not be required to cover their granular load if the granular load does not extend, at its peak, above any point on a horizontal plane equal in height to the top of the side, front, or rear part of the cargo container area that is the least in height.
(f) No vehicle shall be driven or moved on any highway with a load consisting of rocks, stones, or boulders if the load, at its peak, extends above any point on a horizontal plane equal in height to the top of the side, front, or rear part of the cargo container area that is the least in height.
(g) Violation of this section shall be considered an offense as defined in section 701-107(5), shall not be subject to the provisions of chapter 291D, and shall subject the owner or driver of the vehicle, or both, to the following penalties without possibility of probation or suspension of sentence:
(1) For a first violation, by a fine of not less than $250 and not more than $500.
(2) For a second violation involving a vehicle or driver previously cited under this section within one year:
(A) Suspension of the vehicle registration or suspension of the license of the driver, or both, for not less than five working days but not more than ten working days; and
(B) A fine of not less than $500 and not more than $750.
(3) For a third or subsequent violation involving a vehicle or driver previously cited under this section within one year:
(A) Suspension of the vehicle registration or suspension of the license of the driver, or both, for a period of thirty calendar days; and
(B) A fine of not less than $750 and not more than $1, 000.
In imposing a fine under this subsection, the court, in its discretion, may apportion payment of the fine between the driver of the vehicle and the owner of the vehicle according to the court's determination of the degree of fault for the violation.
For the purposes of this subsection, a truck-trailer combination and tractor-semitrailer combination, as they are defined in section 286-2, ...

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