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State v. Castillon

Supreme Court of Hawaii

May 16, 2019

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

          CERTIORARI TO THE INTERMEDIATE COURT OF APPEALS (CAAP-16-0000421, CASE NO. 3DTC-15-042273)

          John M. Tonaki, Audrey L. Stanley for Petitioner.

          Mitchell D. Roth, David Blancett-Maddock for Respondents.

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

          OPINION

          WILSON, J.

         I. Introduction

         Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant Michelle Helen Castillon ("Castillon") seeks review of the May 31, 2017 opinion of the Intermediate Court of Appeals ("ICA"). State v. Castillon, 140 Hawai'i 242, 398 P.3d 831 (App. 2017). She contends that Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellee State of Hawai'i ("State") bore the burden to prove, pursuant to Hawai'i Revised Statutes ("HRS") § 286-102(a) (2007), [1] that she did not possess a valid driver's license issued by Canada or a valid commercial driver's license issued by Canada or Mexico, which would have exempted her from the requirement to operate a motor vehicle with a valid Hawai'i driver's license. Inasmuch as Castillon bore the initial burden to produce "some evidence" to support an exemption, and she failed to do so, the burden never shifted to the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Castillon did not have a driver's license that qualified as an exemption.

         II. Background

         Castillon was stopped by Officer Aron Tomota ("Officer Tomota") for driving with expired safety and registration tags on November 19, 2015. When he asked for her State of Hawai'i driver's license, Castillon was not able to provide one. Officer Tomota issued a citation to Castillon for driving a motor vehicle with a revoked license under HRS § 286-132 (2007) . The citation was later amended to driving without a license ("DWOL") under HRS § 286-102(b) (Supp. 2012).[2]

         A. District Court Proceedings

         At trial, the District Court of the Third Circuit ("district court") rejected Castillon's argument that she was entitled to a judgment of acquittal because the State failed to prove that she did not possess a valid driver's license issued by Canada or Mexico.[3]

         The State offered testimony in its case-in-chief that established Castillon did not have a valid Hawai'i driver's license. Officer Tomota testified that when he stopped Castillon, he called dispatch to verify whether she had a license. Dispatch responded that Castillon's license had been revoked. At trial, the supervising driver's license examiner for the County of Hawai'i ("Examiner") also testified that Castillon's State of Hawai'i driver's license had been revoked prior to November 19, 2015. The Examiner testified that the State's database precluded her from conducting research regarding Castillon's licensure in Canada. She did not address whether she was precluded from investigating Castillon's licensure in Mexico.

         Castillon did not introduce evidence that she possessed a valid driver's license in Canada or Mexico. Rather, she argued the State bore the burden to prove that she did not possess a valid driver's license in Canada or Mexico and noted that, while HRS § 286-102(a) requires all persons in the State of Hawai'i to be "appropriately examined and duly licensed as a qualified driver" before operating a motor vehicle, certain persons described under HRS § 286-105 (2007)[4] are exempted from this requirement, including those who possess a valid driver's license issued by "a province of the Dominion of Canada" and those with a valid commercial driver's license issued by "Mexico, or a province of the Dominion of Canada[.]" HRS § 286-105(3) and (4). Thus, she claimed, the State bore the burden to prove that she did not possess a valid driver's license in Canada or Mexico.

         Based on the evidence presented at trial, the district court determined that the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Castillon violated HRS § 286-102(b) by operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver's license. Her sentence to pay $187.00 in fees and fines was stayed pending this appeal. Castillon filed an amended motion for reconsideration of judgment and post-trial motion for judgment of acquittal, asserting the same arguments. The district court denied the motions.

         B. ...


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