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State v. Celestine

Supreme Court of Hawaii

April 12, 2018

STATE OF HAWAIʻI, Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
RITALYNN MOSS CELESTINE, Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant.

          CERTIORARI TO THE INTERMEDIATE COURT OF APPEALS CAAP-14-0000335; CASE NO. 1DTA-13-00956

          James S. Tabe for petitioner

          McKENNA, POLLACK, AND WILSON, JJ., WITH RECKTENWALD, C.J., DISSENTING, WITH WHOM NAKAYAMA, J., JOINS

          OPINION

          POLLACK, JUDGE.

         This appeal arises from a challenge by Ritalynn Moss Celestine to her conviction based on the validity of her waiver of the right to testify at trial. We hold that the record does not support a conclusion that Celestine's waiver of the right to testify was voluntarily, intelligently, and knowingly made. Because the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, we vacate the conviction and remand the case for further proceedings.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On February 24, 2013, around 2:40 a.m., an officer of the Honolulu Police Department driving along Meheula Parkway saw Celestine's vehicle in the "planter area."[1] It appeared to the officer that the vehicle had jumped the curb. After Celestine exited her vehicle, the officer noticed a strong odor of alcohol emitting from Celestine's breath and that her eyes were red, bloodshot, and glassy. The officer requested that Celestine perform three field sobriety tests. According to the responding officer, Celestine demonstrated clues suggesting intoxication on all three tests, and she was subsequently placed under arrest.[2]

         At the police station, an officer read Celestine the implied consent form for testing, which provided, inter alia, as follows: "if you refuse to submit to a breath, blood or urine test, you shall be subject to up to 30 days imprisonment and/or a fine of up to a thousand dollars." Celestine refused the blood test but opted to take the breath test. About 3:15 a.m., Celestine underwent an Intoxilyzer 8000 breath test. Celestine's breath alcohol content was 0.098 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.

         A. District Court Proceedings

         On March 12, 2013, Celestine was charged by complaint in the District Court of the First Circuit (district court) with operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant in violation of Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) § 291E-61(a)(1)[3]and/or (a)(3).[4] Celestine pleaded not guilty to the charge.

         At trial, [5] prior to the presentation of evidence, the district court advised Celestine as follows:

THE COURT: Okay. Miss Celestine, to advise you of your rights at trial, at some point in time the State will rest, okay, and you'll have an opportunity to testify or remain silent. Should you choose to remain silent, the Court can infer no guilt because of your silence. Basically, you'll be invoking your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Okay, you understand?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: However, if you do wish to testify, you need to be sworn in, you're also subject to cross-examination by the State's attorney. Okay?
THE DEFENDANT[6]: Okay. And when the State does rest, okay, I'll remind you again, okay, I have to finish this even though we're doing this piece -- piecemeal today. All right. Any questions? Okay. Thank you.

         After the State rested, [7] the defense advised the court that it would not be presenting evidence. The court then proceeded with the Tachibana colloquy:

THE COURT: Okay. For defense case, okay, Miss Moss Celestine?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: Okay. Just in caution, okay, I had explained to you, okay, on the 12th that you had the right to testify and the right to remain silent, okay. They call this your Tachibana rights. It's based on a case law that the appellate court found that the trial court needed to inform you of your rights, okay. If you chose not to testify, the Court could infer no guilt because of your silence; basically you would be invoking your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Okay. On the other hand, if you do wish to testify, you need to be sworn in, you also will be subject to cross-examination by the State's attorney.
Okay. Your attorney just indicated to the Court that you will not be testifying. Is that correct?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: Okay. Is anybody forcing you not to testify?
THE DEFENDANT: No, sir.
THE COURT: Okay. It's your own decision?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: Okay, very good . . . .

         Following the colloquy, the district court heard Celestine's motion to suppress her breath ...


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