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State v. Fukuoka

Supreme Court of Hawaii

October 20, 2017

STATE OF HAWAI'I, Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
GEORGE FUKUOKA, Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant.

         CERTIORARI TO THE INTERMEDIATE COURT OF APPEALS (CAAP-15-0000461; 2DTA-14-01165)

          Hayden Aluli for petitioner

          John D. Kim and Richard K. Minatoya for respondent

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

          OPINION OF THE COURT

          POLLACK, J.

         The district court in this case dismissed without prejudice the charges against Petitioner George Fukuoka based upon a violation of Rule 48 of the Hawai'i Rules of Penal Procedure (HRPP). On appeal, the Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) rejected Fukuoka's contention that the district court abused its discretion in not dismissing the case with prejudice. Fukuoka on certiorari to this court reasserts that the charges were not serious as a matter of law and that the State of Hawai'i should have been precluded from reinstituting prosecution. In our review of the ICA's decision, we consider the principles that guide a trial court in exercising its discretion to dismiss a case with or without prejudice for a violation of HRPP Rule 48. We conclude that the ICA did not err and affirm its Judgment on Appeal.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On September 28, 2014, George Fukuoka was arrested for operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant (OVUII). He posted bail and was ordered to appear at the District Court of the Second Circuit, Moloka'i Division, (district court) on October 28, 2014.

         On October 22, 2014, the State of Hawai'i filed a five-count complaint. The counts were as follows: 1) OVUII, in violation of Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) §§ 291E-61(a)(1) and/or 291E-61(a)(3) and 291E-61(b) (Supp. 2012); 2) inattention to driving, in violation of HRS § 291-12 (Supp. 2012); 3) reckless driving, in violation of HRS § 291-2 (2007); 4) duty upon striking an unattended vehicle or other property, in violation of HRS § 291C-15 (Supp. 2012); and 5) lack of due care, in violation of Maui County Code (MCC) § 10.52.010 (1965).[1]

         Fukuoka appeared at district court on October 28, 2014 for arraignment and entered pleas of not guilty to all of the charges.[2] The district court set a pretrial conference for November 25, 2014. At the pretrial conference, Fukuoka requested that he be permitted to issue subpoenas duces tecum for the personnel and internal affairs files of Maui Police Department (MPD) officers involved in the underlying incident. The court issued an order on December 12, 2014, permitting Fukuoka to issue the subpoenas, and the returns of service on two subpoenas were filed three days later.

         On December 18, 2014, the County of Maui (County), on behalf of MPD, moved to quash the subpoenas (Motion to Quash). The hearing date of December 23, 2014 was continued to January 27, 2015; in the meantime, MPD filed documents under seal for in camera review. At the scheduled hearing, the district court continued the matter initially to February 10, 2015 and then later to February 20, 2015.

         At a status conference on February 20, 2015, Fukuoka and the County agreed to a protective order regarding the files to be produced pursuant to the subpoenas. Later that day, the district court filed an order granting in part and denying in part the Motion to Quash. The court also set a March 24, 2015 trial date.

         On February 24, 2015, Fukuoka filed a proposed sua sponte order resetting the trial date, which indicated that the new trial date was necessary due to a previously scheduled trial. Three days later, the district court entered the order, rescheduling the trial from March 24, 2015 to April 14, 2015.

         On the date of trial, Fukuoka filed with the district court a motion to dismiss the complaint with prejudice (Motion to Dismiss) on the ground that his rights under HRPP Rule 48 had been violated.[3] Fukuoka contended that the case should be dismissed because 198 days had elapsed between his September 28, 2014 arrest and the April 14, 2015 trial date and that no HRPP Rule 48 exclusions applied to that period. Fukuoka also argued, pursuant to the three-factor test set forth by this court in State v. Estencion, 63 Haw. 264, 625 P.2d 1040 (1981), that the case should be dismissed with prejudice. Fukuoka submitted that the first Estencion factor, the seriousness of the offense, weighed heavily in his favor because all of the charges against him were petty misdemeanors, which are not "serious offenses" in comparison to full misdemeanors. Fukuoka maintained that his position was supported by the fact that the constitutional right to a jury trial did not attach to a first OVUII offense because it is a petty offense and not constitutionally serious.

         As to the remaining factors, Fukuoka submitted that the second factor, the facts and circumstances of the case that led to the dismissal, also weighed in his favor because the delay before trial was the fault of the district court for not timely resolving the issues related to the subpoenas duces tecum. The third factor, impact of reprosecution on the administration of HRPP Rule 48 and on the administration of justice, also weighed in his favor, Fukuoka argued, because a reprosecution would frustrate the fair administration of HRPP Rule 48 and of justice.

         The State argued in response that there was no HRPP Rule 48 violation because much of the elapsed time period should be charged to Fukuoka as he requested pretrial continuances, he had never requested that the district court set a trial date, and the State had never requested a continuance. The State reserved argument on whether the dismissal should be with or without prejudice until the district court ruled on whether there was a violation of HRPP Rule 48. Later that day, the court issued an order dismissing the case without prejudice (Order Dismissing Without Prejudice).

         Fukuoka filed a motion to reconsider the court's dismissal without prejudice (Motion to Reconsider). He argued that petty misdemeanors are not serious offenses as a matter of law. Fukuoka also contended that the facts and circumstances leading to dismissal should be viewed in his favor because many of the delays were due to the County's Motion to Quash.

         In response, the State maintained that the delay was at least partly attributable to the defense. The State submitted that the impact of reprosecution on the administration of justice weighed in its favor because of the short length of the delay and because the reasons for the delay were proper. As for the seriousness of the offense, the State alluded to various circumstances of the incident, which the defense challenged.[4]

         The district court denied the Motion to Reconsider. In its oral ruling, the court stated that it was not taking into consideration circumstances regarding the incident that had been stated by the prosecution at the hearing. The district court also stated that "given the short delay[, it did] not find that there would be a significant impact of reprosecution under [HRPP] Rule 48." An Order Denying Motion to Reconsider was entered at the conclusion of the hearing.

         Thereafter, the district court issued findings of fact, conclusions of law, and an order granting in part and denying in part the Motion to Dismiss (Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law). The court found that Fukuoka's case had been pending disposition for 198 days and that trial would have commenced within the 180-day deadline but for the court's sua sponte order continuing the trial date. Citing HRPP Rule 48(c), the district court stated that a delay due to court congestion, absent exceptional circumstances, is not an excludable time period. The court noted that the order resetting the trial date did not indicate any exceptional circumstances for the resetting of trial. Thus, finding no applicable excludable time periods under HRPP Rule 48(c), the district court concluded that HRPP Rule 48 had been violated because trial had not commenced with 180 days of Fukuoka's arrest and the setting of bail.

         The district court then addressed whether dismissal of the case would be with or without prejudice. The court stated that it had considered the three Estencion factors. First, as to the seriousness of the offenses, the court reasoned that the charges were serious in nature, the offense of intoxicated driving can result in significant harms, the other charges were tied to the OVUII offense, and the court would not extend the constitutional jury trial right analysis to its determination under HRPP Rule 48.

         With respect to the facts and circumstances of the case that led to the dismissal, the district court found that it was well within the right of the County to file a Motion to Quash the subpoenas duces tecum. The court noted that the prosecution did not request any continuances nor have control over the resolution of the issues relating to the Motion to Quash. Additionally, the district court determined that, but for the court's sua sponte order continuing the trial to April 14, 2015, the trial would have commenced within the time period required by HRPP Rule 48. As to this factor, the court found that it weighed in favor of dismissal without prejudice.

         Lastly, as to the impact of reprosecution, the district court noted that there had been no showing of prejudice to Fukuoka and that reprosecution furthers the public's interest in bringing defendants charged with crimes to trial. The court found that the 18-day delay was not substantial. The court concluded that the seriousness of the offenses and the facts and circumstances that led to the dismissal outweighed any impact of reprosecution on the administration of HRPP Rule 48 and on the administration of justice. Accordingly, the district court determined that the dismissal should be without prejudice.

         Fukuoka appealed to the ICA from both the Order Dismissing Without Prejudice and the Order Denying Motion to Reconsider. Fukuoka principally focused his argument on the contention that petty misdemeanors should be non-serious as a matter of law under the first Estencion factor. The State responded that there was no abuse of discretion because the district court had properly applied the holding of Estencion, and it disputed Fukuoka's argument that petty misdemeanors should be categorically non-serious. In reply, Fukuoka contended that seriousness in the context of HRPP Rule 48 is linked to the constitutional jury trial right. Fukuoka also argued that the district court's conclusion that the prosecution had no control over the process of resolving the subpoenas and the Motion to Quash improperly relieved the prosecution from its shared responsibility of carrying out HRPP Rule 48 requirements.

         In a Summary Disposition Order (SDO) affirming the Order Dismissing Without Prejudice, [5] the ICA stated that it had already rejected a mechanical per se rule for the "seriousness of the offense" factor, citing State v. Kim, 109 Hawai'i 59, 66, 122 P.3d 1157, 1164 (App. 2005). Rather, the ICA concluded that "the maximum possible punishment is merely one measure of the gravity of the offense" and that the trial court may consider the combination of the charges brought against the defendant. The ICA noted that the district court had determined that "although the charges were petty misdemeanors, . . . the offenses were inextricably tied to the OVUII charge, and that OVUII was a serious offense because it could result in significant harm to life and property." The ICA also concluded that the seriousness of an offense with respect to HRPP Rule 48 is not related to whether the offense is constitutionally petty and thus "does not determine whether an offense is serious under Estencion." Therefore, the ICA held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the offenses were serious for purposes of HRPP Rule 48 and that the court did not err in dismissing without prejudice the charges against Fukuoka.[6]

         In his application for a writ of certiorari, Fukuoka asserts that petty misdemeanors are categorically non-serious offenses under Estencion, that the district court erred in its determination that the facts and circumstances weighed in favor of dismissal without prejudice, and that the court erred in concluding that these two Estencion factors outweighed any impact of the third factor. Accordingly, Fukuoka contends that the district court abused its discretion in dismissing his case without prejudice.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         We review a trial court's decision to dismiss a case with or without prejudice for violation of HRPP Rule 48 for abuse of discretion. See State v. Estencion, 63 Haw. 264, 269, 625 P.2d 1040, 1044 (1981). An abuse of discretion occurs when "the decisionmaker 'exceeds the bounds of reason or disregards rules or principles of law or practice to the substantial detriment of a party.'" State v. Kony, 138 Hawai'i 1, 8, 375 P.3d 1239, 1246 (2016) (quoting State v. Vliet, 95 Hawai'i 94, 108, 19 P.3d 42, 56 (2001)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. HRPP Rule 48 and Estencion

         HRPP Rule 48 is intended to "ensure an accused a speedy trial, which is separate and distinct from [the] constitutional protection to a speedy trial." State v. Estencion, 63 Haw. 264, 268, 625 P.2d 1040, 1043 (1981). Subsection (b) of HRPP Rule 48 provides in relevant part as follows:

(b) By court. Except in the case of traffic offenses that are not punishable by imprisonment, the court shall, on motion of the defendant, dismiss the charge, with or without prejudice in its discretion, if trial is not commenced within 6 months:
(1) from the date of arrest if bail is set or from the filing of the charge, whichever is sooner, on any offense based on the same conduct or arising from the same criminal episode for which the arrest or charge was made ....

         HRPP Rule 48(b) (2000) (emphasis added). Thus, under HRPP Rule 48, a court must dismiss the charges upon the defendant's motion when trial has not commenced within six months from the date of arrest if bail is set or from the filing of the charge, whichever is sooner, taking into account any periods of delay excluded under the rule. See HRPP Rule 48(b) (1), (c) (2000).

         Though dismissal for a violation of HRPP Rule 48 is mandatory, whether to dismiss charges with or without prejudice is subject to the discretion of the court. HRPP Rule 48(b). We have adopted factors from the federal Speedy Trial Act to guide our courts in exercising this discretion. Estencion, 63 Haw. at 269, 625 P.2d at 1044. In determining whether to dismiss the case with or without prejudice, "the court shall consider, among others, each of the following factors: the seriousness of the offense; the facts and the circumstances of the case which led to the dismissal; and the impact of a ...


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