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State v. Ui

Supreme Court of Hawaii

May 16, 2018

STATE OF HAWAI'I, Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellee,
RACHEL VIAMOANA UI, Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant.


          Steven T. Barta for petitioner

          David Blancett-Maddock for respondent



          POLLACK, J.

         The right to have all elements of a charged criminal offense proven beyond a reasonable doubt is one of the fundamental principles of our justice system. In State v. Murray, we held that a trial court must engage a defendant in an on-the-record colloquy to ensure that the defendant is intelligently, knowingly, and voluntarily relinquishing this fundamental right before the court may accept the defendant's admission of an element of a crime. 116 Hawai'i 3, 12, 169 P.3d 955, 964 (2007). We now reiterate our holding in Murray and decline to establish an exception to the colloquy requirement when a stipulation is based on trial strategy or time constraints.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In April 2011, Rachel Viamoana Ui and Jacob Wong, Ui's co-worker, were involved in a traffic collision in Kona on the island of Hawai'i. The two were traveling in Wong's vehicle, which "rolled" after it collided with a concrete construction barrier on Kamakaeha Avenue, eventually coming to a stop on its roof. When an ambulance arrived, the responding emergency medical technician found Ui unconscious a few feet from the driver-side door of the vehicle. Ui was transported to Kona Hospital, where an emergency room physician informed the responding police officer that he smelled alcohol on her person. Acting pursuant to Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) § 291E-21 (Supp. 2006), the officer requested that the hospital obtain a blood sample from Ui in order to determine her blood alcohol content (BAC). Ronald Luga, a medical technician employed by the hospital, proceeded to draw two vials of blood from Ui while she remained unconscious.

         A. District Court Proceedings

         The State of Hawai'i filed a complaint in the District Court of the Third Circuit (district court) charging Ui with operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant (OVUII) in violation of HRS § 291E-61(a) (Supp. 2011)[1] and driving without a license in violation of HRS § 286-102(b)[2] (2007).[3] Ui pleaded not guilty to both charges.

         During the bench trial, [4] the parties offered conflicting testimony as to whether Ui was driving at the time of the accident. Ui and Wong both acknowledged that they drank heavily on the night in question and testified that Wong had driven the two to a local store prior to the collision. Wong claimed that Ui insisted upon driving his truck when they left the store and was in control of the vehicle when it collided with the concrete barrier. In contrast, Ui asserted that she had "passed out" in Wong's passenger seat while still at the store and was sleeping when the collision occurred.

         The State called Luga to testify regarding the blood draw he performed on Ui. Before Luga's testimony could begin, Ui's defense counsel interrupted:

I was speaking with Ms. Ui, and we may be willing to stipulate to certain things to save time with these witnesses .
Ms. Ui's asking me, was asking me if these witnesses are necessary, and I explained to her not if we're willing to stipulate to certain things. And I know that we're trying to get a lot done today. So if I could just briefly speak with her, and maybe the prosecution, about what we'd be willing to stipulate to, to save . . . the need of these witnesses .

[Tr 4/13/12, 43:67] The court granted a recess to allow defense counsel to confer with Ui and the prosecuting attorney.

         Following the recess, defense counsel orally stipulated to the following: (1) Ui's blood was drawn within three hours of the report of the accident; (2) Ui's blood was drawn in accordance with the Hawaii Administrative Rules; and (3) the blood samples were properly secured and transported to the laboratory. Additionally, defense counsel stipulated that Ui's blood test results showed a BAC of 0.156 grams of alcohol per one hundred milliliters or cubic centimeters of blood. Defense counsel indicated that he had "reviewed those stipulations" with Ui and "we're not challenging any of those facts."

         The district court did not engage Ui in a colloquy regarding the stipulation to the blood test results, and a written copy of the stipulation was not provided to the court. Neither the court nor counsel acknowledged that the stipulated facts constituted proof of one of the two elements of a HRS § 291E-61(a)(4) offense. See Hawai'i Standard Jury Instructions Criminal 16.05 (2004) (providing that the two elements of a violation are 1) operating a vehicle and 2) having 0.8 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters or cubic centimeters of blood).

         At the conclusion of evidence, the district court found Ui guilty of OVUII and of driving without a license. The court sentenced Ui to pay a $1, 000 fine and other monetary fees, attend a fourteen-hour driver's education course, and obtain a substance abuse assessment.

         B. Proceedings Before the Intermediate Court of Appeals

         Approximately twenty-eight months later, Ui, represented by new counsel, filed a notice of appeal to the Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA).[5] Ui argued that the State had failed to allege in its initial complaint that she had acted with the state of mind required to commit both offenses. With regard to the OVUII conviction, Ui argued it should be vacated because the language of the district court's ruling left it unclear whether the conviction was premised on HRS § 291E-61(a)(1)--which includes a state of mind requirement not alleged in the complaint--or HRS § 291E-61(a)(4)--which does not.[6]

         In a Summary Disposition Order (SDO), the ICA vacated Ui's conviction for driving without a license in violation of HRS § 286-102.[7] The ICA reasoned that, because HRS § 286-102 does not in itself specify a requisite state of mind with respect to the conduct it prohibits, HRS § 702-204 (2014)[8]requires that a defendant must have undertaken each element of the offense intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly in order to be convicted. The ICA held that, because the State had not alleged a mens rea in its complaint, dismissal of the driving without a license charge without prejudice was warranted under this court's decision in State v. Apollonio, 130 Hawai'i 353, 359, 311 P.3d 676, 682 (2013).

         The ICA also determined that Ui's OVUII conviction was based on violations of both HRS § 291E-61(a)(1) (impairment of ability to care for oneself) and HRS § 291E-61(a)(4) (BAC over .08). Because HRS § 291E-61(a)(4) is a strict liability method of proof that does not require the State to allege a mens rea under our precedents, see State v. Nesmith, 127 Hawai'i 48, 58-61, 276 P.3d 617, 627-30 (2012), the ICA affirmed Ui's OVUII conviction under HRS § 291E-61(a)(4).

         Following issuance of the SDO, Ui filed a motion for reconsideration. Ui argued that this court's then-recent decision in State v. Won, 137 Hawai'i 330, 372 P.3d 1065 (2015), in which we held that the State may not use the threat of criminal sanctions to coerce a driver into consenting to a breath or blood test, rendered her blood test results inadmissible.[9] The ICA should therefore vacate her HRS § 291E-61(a)(4) conviction, Ui contended, and remand the case to permit her to move to suppress the blood test results. The ICA denied the motion, determining that Ui had waived the issue of admissibility by failing to move for suppression of the test results prior to trial.


         Both the reasonableness of a search and the validity of a defendant's waiver of his or her constitutional rights are questions of constitutional law. See State v. Quiday, 141 Hawai'i 116, 121, 405 P.3d 552, 557 (2017); State v. Friedman, 93 Hawai'i 63, 67, 996 P.2d 268, 272 (2000). "We answer questions of constitutional law by exercising our own independent constitutional judgment based on the facts of the case. Thus, we review questions of constitutional law under the right/wrong standard." Friedman, 93 Hawai'i at 67, 996 P.2d at 272 (quoting State v. Hanapi, 89 Hawai'i 177, 182, 970 P.2d 485, 490 (1998)).


         In her application for a writ of certiorari, Ui contends that the ICA erred in failing to apply State v. Won, 137 Hawai'i 330, 372 P.3d 1065 (2015), to vacate her HRS § 291E-61(a)(4) conviction. The State responds that the ICA correctly held that Ui is not similarly situated to the defendant in Won.[10]

         Additionally, this court directed the parties to submit supplemental briefing on the following questions: (1) whether the district court erred by failing to engage Ui in a colloquy regarding the blood test stipulation as required by State v. Murray, 116 Hawai'i 3, 12, 169 P.3d 955, 964 (2007), and (2) whether, if the district court erred by not engaging Ui in a colloquy, this court should recognize plain error and vacate Ui's conviction.

         A. State v. Won Is Inapplicable To Ui's Blood Draw.

         In Won, we held that law enforcement's use of an "implied consent form" that threatened criminal penalties for refusing a BAC test was inherently coercive and rendered a driver's ensuing consent invalid under article I, section 7 of the Hawai'i Constitution. 137 Hawai'i at 347-48, 372 P.3d at 1082-83. When Ui's blood was drawn at Kona Community Hospital after the accident, no request was made that she consent to testing, nor was an implied consent form advising of possible criminal penalties involved. Because Ui's blood draw was not predicated on her consent, Won does not provide authority to challenge Ui's HRS § 291E-61(a)(4) conviction on this basis. See id. at 344 n.26, 372 P.3d at 1079 n.26 (citing State v. Entrekin, 98 Hawai'i 221, 232, 47 P.3d 336, 347 (2002)) (setting forth constitutional requirements for a nonconsensual, warrantless blood extraction pursuant to HRS § 291E-21) .[11]

         B. State v. Murray Required An ...

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