FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE THIRD CIRCUIT (CASE NO.
Charles M. Cryan Deputy Public Defender for
Yam ada Ross Deputy Prosecuting Attorney County of
Hawai'i for Plaintiff-Appellee.
NAKAMURA, CHIEF JUDGE, AND LEONARD AND REIFURTH, JJ.
NAKAMURA, CHIEF JUDGE.
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
also argues on appeal that the District Court of the Third
Circuit (District Court) 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 § 286-105