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State v. Iona

Supreme Court of Hawaii

May 22, 2019

STATE OF HAWAI'I, Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellee,
KEKOA IONA, Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant.


          Henry P. Ting (William H. Jameson, Jr. on the brief and application) for Petitioner

          Stephen K. Tsushima for Respondent



          WILSON, J.

         This case arises from a pat-down following an investigative stop in April 2014, in Honolulu. The pat-down occurred after a lieutenant with the Honolulu Police Department ("HPD") noticed Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant Kekoa Iona ("Iona") and two other individuals riding bicycles lacking tax decals, which are required by law on all bicycles with wheels twenty inches or more in diameter.

         The police may, in appropriate circumstances and in an appropriate manner, detain individuals for brief, temporary investigative stops based on reasonable suspicion of a crime without violating the prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures in the United States and Hawai'i Constitutions. However, the police may not prolong these temporary detentions, known as Terry stops, [1] any longer than needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made.

         We hold that Iona was seized longer than was necessary for the police to conduct an investigation that confirmed the lieutenant's reasonable suspicion that the required tax decal was missing and to issue a citation to Iona for riding a bicycle without a tax decal.

         After the time necessary for the police to conduct an investigation confirming the absence of the required tax decal and to issue a citation for the missing decal had expired, a warrant check came back from dispatch indicating that Iona had an outstanding warrant. Iona was arrested at the scene based on the outstanding warrant, and a search incident to arrest revealed a small amount of drugs and drug paraphernalia. Because the warrant check came back after the span of time necessary for the police to obtain Iona's identifying information from him and to write and issue the citation, Iona's arrest was illegal. Since the arrest was illegal, the evidence obtained as a result of the arrest was fruit of the poisonous tree. Iona's pre-trial motion to suppress the evidence from the search incident to arrest should have been granted, and the evidence seized as a result of that search should have been excluded from his trial. Accordingly, we vacate the Intermediate Court of Appeals' ("ICA") judgment on appeal and the Circuit Court of the First Circuit's ("circuit court") judgment of conviction and sentence, and we remand the case to the circuit court for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         I. Background

         At 10:40 a.m. on April 17, 2014, Lieutenant Brent Kagawa, an officer with the HPD, observed Iona and two other individuals on bicycles ride past him on Keeaumoku Street in Honolulu. All three bicycles lacked tax decals, which all standard-sized bikes are required to display by state and local law. Hawai'i Revised Statutes ("HRS") §§ 249-14, 249-15 (2001);[2] Revised Ordinances of Honolulu ("ROH") § 15-18.1 (Supp. 1995).[3]

         Having observed what appeared to be the absence of the required decals, Lieutenant Kagawa identified himself, stopped all three men, and, in the words of the circuit court's findings of fact, "initiated an untaxed bicycle inquiry. He informed the three males that he had stopped them for untaxed bicycles." The officer queried the men individually about the status of the bikes. Initially, each man stated he owned the bike he was riding. As Lieutenant Kagawa took down this information, however, Iona changed his statement to say that he borrowed the bike from someone named "Nalu" at the park. Lieutenant Kagawa took some additional information, including their names, and then commenced a warrant check on all three individuals. Lieutenant Kagawa estimated this initial exchange took about three or four minutes.

         In the meantime, two additional officers, Officers Alison Lynch and Raymond Chandler, arrived at the scene to assist Lieutenant Kagawa. Officer Lynch called nearby officers to assist. When they arrived, Lieutenant Kagawa informed the two additional officers of the facts of the untaxed bicycle investigation and asked them to take over the investigation. Lieutenant Kagawa testified that he was waiting until he had all the information at the end of the investigation before determining whether he would issue a citation for the lack of tax decals.

         Officers Lynch and Chandler sought to obtain the bicycles' serial numbers and run them through the system to determine whether they were registered and, if registered, whether they were reported stolen. The officers were only able to read the serial number on the bike Iona had been riding. Once that serial number had been obtained, Officers Lynch and Chandler called dispatch to check the bike registration records in order to determine whether the bike was taxed or untaxed or had been reported stolen.

         After a few minutes, dispatch confirmed that the bike was not registered to Iona or to someone named Nalu. Instead, the bike was registered to a Wai'anae resident. The bike had not been reported stolen. Officer Chandler attempted to contact the registered owner but was unsuccessful. He then contacted the police station in Wai'anae and requested that an officer from that station drive to the registered owner's Wai'anae address in order to determine whether the bike was stolen.

         The warrant check came back at 10:54 a.m., showing that Iona had an outstanding $100.00 bench warrant for contempt. A total of fourteen minutes elapsed between the initial stop and the return of the outstanding warrant information. At no time within the fourteen-minute period was a citation for failure to display a tax decal written or started to be written. Iona was arrested at the scene on the outstanding warrant. Incident to his arrest, he was patted down. The pat-down revealed a glass pipe in a plastic sleeve as well as a small, ziplock plastic bag containing a white, crystalline substance.

         Prior to trial, Iona moved to suppress the glass pipe and the ziplock bag containing a white, crystalline substance, arguing that they were "fruit of the poisonous tree." He argued that he had been illegally seized, that the seizure continued well after its initial justification, that his arrest was therefore illegal, and that the evidence seized in the search incident to his arrest was "fruit of the poisonous tree" and should thus be excluded. He also argued that (1) a violation of HRS § 249-14 is not an arrestable offense, (2) the only penalty authorized for a violation of HRS § 249-14 is the seizure of a bicycle that does not display the required registration decal, (3) Lieutenant Kagawa did not have reasonable suspicion to further detain Iona in order to determine if he had an outstanding bench warrant, (4) Lieutenant Kagawa had no basis to request a warrant check on Iona at the point in time that he did because Lieutenant Kagawa did not suspect Iona of committing an arrestable crime or violation at that time, and (5) Lieutenant Kagawa was not authorized to conduct a warrant check under HRS § 803-6 (2014) .

         Iona was tried on October 12, 2015.[4] After a bench trial on stipulated facts, Iona was convicted of one count of promoting a dangerous drug in the third degree and one count of unlawful use of drug paraphernalia. See HRS § 712-1243 (2014); HRS § 329-43.5(a) (2010). He was sentenced to two open ...

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