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State v. Castillon

Intermediate Court of Appeals of Hawaii

May 31, 2017

STATE OF HAWAI'I, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MICHELLE HELEN CASTILLON, Defendant-Appellant.

         APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE THIRD CIRCUIT (CASE NO. 3DTC-15-042273)

          Charles M. Cryan Deputy Public Defender for Defendant-Appellant.

          Dale Yamada Ross Deputy Prosecuting Attorney County of Hawai'i for Plaintiff-Appellee.

          NAKAMURA, CHIEF JUDGE, AND LEONARD AND REIFURTH, JJ.

          OPINION

          NAKAMURA, CHIEF JUDGE.

         In this appeal, we address the question of whether the exceptions to the prohibition against driving without a license (DWOL) set forth in the statute defining the offense constitute defenses to the offense or essential elements of the offense. As explained below, we hold that the statutory exceptions to the DWOL offense are defenses for which the defendant bears the initial burden of producing evidence, and not essential elements that the prosecution in every case must prove do not apply. In doing so, we overrule our characterization in State v. Matautia, 81 Hawai'i 76, 83, 912 P.2d 573, 580 (App. 1996), of the statutory exceptions as elements of the DWOL offense.

         Defendant-Appellant Michelle Helen Castillon (Castillon) was charged with and convicted of DWOL. At trial, Plaintiff-Appellee State of Hawai'i (State) proved that Castillon did not have a vaild Hawai'i driver's license on November 19, 2015, when she was observed driving a car on a public road. On appeal, Castillon argues that there was insufficient evidence to support her DWOL conviction because the State failed to prove that all the statutory exceptions to the DWOL offense did not apply. In particular, Castillon argues that the State failed to prove that she did not fall within the exceptions for persons who possess driver's licenses issued by Canada or Mexico. Castillon, on her part, did not present any evidence that she had a driver's license issued by Canada or Mexico or that she fell within any of the other statutory exceptions to the DWOL offense. Based on our holding that the statutory exceptions to the DWOL offense constitute defenses to, and not essential elements of, the DWOL offense, we reject Castillon's argument that there was insufficient evidence to support her DWOL conviction.

         Castillon also argues on appeal that the District Court of the Third Circuit (District Court)[1] failed to obtain a valid waiver of her right to testify as required by Tachibana v. State, 79 Hawai'i 226, 900 P.2d 1293 (1995). The District Court did not obtain a waiver directly from Castillon, and instead accepted the representation of Castillon's counsel that Castillon did not want to testify. We conclude that this was insufficient to satisfy Tachibana. We therefore vacate Castillon's DWOL conviction and remand the case for a new trial.

         BACKGROUND

         The underlying facts are not disputed. On November 19, 2015, Hawai'i County Police Department Officer Aron Tomota (Officer Tomota) observed Castillon driving a car on a public road. Officer Tomota effected a traffic stop of Castillon's car after noticing that her "vehicle tags" were expired. Castillon was not able to provide Officer Tomota with a driver's license.

         Castillon was charged with DWOL. At trial, Officer Tomota testified about his traffic stop and identified Castillon in court as the person he had stopped. The State also called Shannon McCandless (McCandless), the supervising driver's license examiner for the County of Hawai'i (County). Through McCandless' testimony and records of the County's Driver's License Section, the State established that on November 19, 2015, the date Castillon was stopped by Officer Tomota, Castillon did not possess a valid Hawai'i driver's license and she was not duly licensed as a qualified'driver. McCandless, however, was not able to conduct research on whether Castillon possessed a driver's license from Canada, and McCandless did not testify about whether Castillon had been issued a driver's license by Canada or Mexico.

         Castillon did not offer any evidence that she possessed a driver's license from Canada or Mexico, or that she fell within any other statutory exception to the DWOL offense.

         DISCUSSION

         I.

         A.

         Castillon's claim that there was insufficient evidence to support her DWOL conviction turns on whether the exceptions to the DWOL offense constitute defenses or essential elements. The DWOL offense is set forth in Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) § 286-102. At the time relevant to this case, HRS § 286-102 provided, in pertinent part, as follows:

(a) No person, except one exempted under section 286-105, one who holds an instruction permit under section 286-110, one who holds a provisional license under section 286-102.6, one who holds a commercial driver's license issued under section 286-239, or one who holds a commercial driver's license instruction permit issued under section 286-236, shall operate any category.of motor vehicles listed in this section without first being appropriately examined and duly licensed as a qualified driver of that category of motor vehicles.

         HRS § 286-102(a) (2007) (emphasis added). One of the statutory exceptions to the DWOL offense is for people exempted from licencing requirements under HRS § ...


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