CERTIORARI TO THE INTERMEDIATE COURT OF APPEALS
(CAAP-17-0000829; CASE NO. 2CPC-17-0000158)
Aluli for petitioner
A. Hanano for respondent
RECKTENWALD, C.J., McKENNA, POLLACK, AND WILSON, JJ.; WITH
NAKAYAMA, J., CONCURRING SEPARATELY
1976, the legislature enacted Hawai'i Revised Statutes
(HRS) Chapter 853 to allow for the deferred acceptance of
guilty (DAG) pleas. The legislature thereby sought "to
establish a means whereby a court in its discretion may defer
acceptance of a guilty plea for a certain period on certain
conditions with respect to certain defendants[, ] . . .
result[ing] in the discharge of the defendant and expungement
of the matter from [the defendant's] record." 1976
Haw. Sess. Laws Act 154, § 1 at 279. The legislature
later amended HRS Chapter 853 to allow for deferred
acceptance of no contest (DANC) pleas.1983 Haw. Sess.
Laws Act 290, § 1 at 617.
legislature explained, HRS Chapter 853 serves important
policy goals and the availability of its benefits is
specifically tailored in furtherance of those goals:
[I]n certain criminal cases, particularly those involving
first time, accidental, or situational offenders, it is in
the best interest of the State and the defendant that the
defendant be given the opportunity to keep [the
defendant's] record free of a criminal conviction if [the
defendant] can comply with certain terms and conditions
during a period designated by court order. Especially where
youth is involved, a record free of a felony conviction,
which would foreclose certain educational, professional, and
job opportunities may, in a proper case, be more conducive to
offender rehabilitation and crime prevention than the
deterrent effects of a conviction and sentence.
1976 Haw. Sess. Laws Act 154, § 1 at 279.
§ 853-4 (2014 & Supp. 2018) sets forth the
circumstances under which a defendant is ineligible to
benefit from HRS Chapter 853. One such circumstance is where
the offense charged is nonprobationable. HRS § 853-4(5).
In State v. Hamili, this court determined
that Prohibited Fishing with Gill Nets was a nonprobationable
offense because the use of the word "shall" in the
applicable sentencing provision indicated three mandatory
sentencing alternatives, none of which allowed for a term of
probation. 87 Hawai'i 102, 107, 952 P.2d 390, 395 (1998)
case requires us to revisit Hamili and to consider
the bounds of a trial court's discretion in granting or
denying a motion for a DANC plea. As discussed herein, we
believe that the legislature intended for the benefits of HRS
Chapter 853 to be broadly available to defendants, except
where clearly articulated, deliberate exceptions apply.
Applying those principles here, we conclude that the
underlying offenses at issue in this case are probationable
and Hamili is hereby overruled.
addition, although the grant or denial of a motion for a DANC
plea is a matter within the discretion of the trial court, in
the instant case, the court erred in denying Kaohulani
Medeiros's motion for a DANC plea. We therefore vacate
the Intermediate Court of Appeals' (ICA) Judgment on
Appeal and the Circuit Court of the Second Circuit's
(circuit court) Judgment, Conviction, and Probation Sentence,
and remand the case to the circuit court for proceedings
consistent with this opinion.
around 9:30 p.m. on February 24, 2017, Department of Land and
Natural Resources (DLNR) Officers John Yamamoto and Mark
Chamberlain approached Medeiros on the side of Pi'ilani
Highway on Maui, on suspicion that Medeiros may have been
night hunting using artificial light, in violation of the
Hawai'i Administrative Rules (HAR). Medeiros was dressed
in a camouflage t-shirt and admitted to Officer Yamamoto that
"he was spotlighting." Officer Yamamoto seized a
headlamp, an unloaded rifle, a magazine containing
ammunition, and a case of bullets from Medeiros's truck.
State charged Medeiros by Felony Information and Non-Felony
Complaint with the following four counts:
Count I: Place to Keep Unloaded Firearms Other Than Pistol
and Revolvers, a class C felony, in violation of HRS §
Count II: Place to Keep Ammunition, a misdemeanor, in
violation of HRS § 134-27 (a) (2011);
Count III: Hunting Hours, a petty misdemeanor, in violation
of HAR § 13-123-6; and
Count IV: Artificial Light Prohibited, a petty misdemeanor,
in violation of HAR § 13-123-7.
Circuit Court Proceedings
entered an initial plea of not guilty as to all four counts.
He subsequently filed a motion to suppress "all evidence
obtained by law enforcement officers of the state [DLNR]
arising out of an investigative detention of [Medeiros] on
Pi'ilani Highway on Feb[ruary] 24, 2017 [, ]"
including all statements made by Medeiros and all physical
evidence seized from his truck. The circuit
court held a hearing on the matter, at which
Officers Yamamoto and Chamberlain testified.
Yamamoto testified that at around 9:00 pm on February 24,
2017, he and Officer Chamberlain were patrolling an area
between Kaup6 and 'Ulupalakua for hunting and fishing
violations. Officer Yamamoto testified that he and Officer
Chamberlain stopped at an elevated vantage point with a
clear, unobstructed view of the area. Officer Yamamoto
observed a gray Toyota pickup truck pass by and "[u]pon
the Toyota coming up on the other horizon across  the
valley, . . . [he] started seeing panning of a light."
Yamamoto testified that the light was coming from the
driver's side of the vehicle, which was slowly moving
down Pi'ilani Highway, "heading towards
Kaupo/Hana." Officer Yamamoto explained that
spotlighting is a "common act of a hunter [engaged in]
night hunting. They tend to look for animals on the side of
the road." He further explained that the truck's
slow maneuvering was "an act that's consistent [with
what] a night hunter would do." Because spotlighting is
"pretty common with night hunting in that area,"
Officer Yamamoto suspected that there "could be possibly
night hunting going on[.]"
Yamamoto testified that after observing the truck for about
two minutes, he and Officer Chamberlain got into separate
vehicles and headed toward it. Officer Yamamoto admitted that
he lost sight of the truck for about fifteen minutes, until
he noticed a gray Toyota pickup truck traveling in the
opposite direction. The truck turned left in front of Officer
Yamamoto, onto the shoulder. Although Officer Yamamoto could
not say for sure that the truck on the shoulder was the same
vehicle that he observed from the vantage point, it had the
same general appearance, and Officer Yamamoto had only
observed one other vehicle - a smaller sedan - on the road
that night. As a result, Officer Yamamoto also pulled onto
Yamamoto stated that when he exited his vehicle, the driver
of the truck was walking towards him, wearing a camouflage
t-shirt. He identified the driver as Kaohulani Medeiros.
Officer Yamamoto testified that he told Medeiros, "the
reason why we're here ... I won't lie to you. What we
observed earlier was a light panning from this vehicle."
Medeiros responded, "I'm not going to lie to you
either. I was spotlighting."
Yamamoto further testified that when he asked Medeiros if he
had any weapons, Medeiros recovered a rifle and a case of
bullets from the cab of his truck and stated that the
magazine for the weapon "was in the cup holder between
the driver's seat and the passenger seat." Officer
Yamamoto testified that the magazine contained ammunition,
but there were no bullets in the rifle's chamber. Officer
Yamamoto further testified that he recovered a headlamp
"that was given to him as what was being shined."
to Officer Yamamoto, Medeiros stated that he borrowed the
rifle from his brother and was planning to go hunting the
next morning. Medeiros also stated that he was driving home
from work when he pulled over to urinate, and further
explained that he worked in Wailuku and lived in Hana.
However, Officer Yamamoto testified that Medeiros's truck
was actually headed toward Wailuku, rather than Hana, just
before it pulled onto the shoulder. Officer Yamamoto issued
Medeiros two criminal citations for "night illumination
for hunting . . . and for night hunting."
circuit court entered findings of fact, conclusions of law,
and an order denying Medeiros's motion to suppress. The
circuit court's findings of fact essentially restated the
testimony of Officers Yamamoto and Chamberlain.
Plea Agreement and Motion for a DANC Plea
entered into a plea agreement whereby the State would dismiss
Counts I and II if Medeiros pleaded guilty or no contest to
Counts III and IV. The plea agreement further provided that
Medeiros would be sentenced to a $100 fine for each count.
Medeiros filed a motion for a DANC plea, expressing his
intent to plead no contest to both petty misdemeanor charges,
and requesting that the circuit court defer acceptance of his
no contest pleas, pursuant to HRS Chapter 853. Medeiros attached
letters written by his father and brother as exhibits to his
motion for a DANC plea. The letters explained that the rifle
seized from Medeiros's truck was registered to
Medeiros's father, and that both Medeiros and his brother
had permission to use and transport it.
hearing on Medeiros's change of plea and sentencing, the
circuit court found that Medeiros "voluntarily enter[ed]
pleas of no contest with an understanding of the nature of
the charges against him and the consequences of his
plea." Defense counsel then requested that the circuit
court grant Medeiros's motion for a DANC plea, in
consideration of the factors set forth by HRS § 853-1
(a), because: 1) Medeiros voluntarily pled no contest to both
petty misdemeanor charges; 2) Medeiros's history showed
that he would not likely engage in a future criminal course
of conduct; and 3) the administration of justice did not
require that Medeiros suffer any penalty, other than the
fines set forth by the plea agreement and the conditions
imposed for the duration of a DANC plea probationary period.
Accordingly, defense counsel requested that the circuit court
sentence Medeiros to a $100 fine for each count, pursuant to
the plea agreement, and "continue the deferral pending
the final outcome or payment of the $200.00 fine. In other
words, if [Medeiros] pays $200.00 in one month, then the
[DANC plea] probationary period ends."
then addressed the court and stated, "[s]orry for the
mess that I got myself into. And you're not going to see
me in here again. I can guarantee that. This was just one big
misunderstanding. And I['m] sorry."
prosecutor deferred to the circuit court with regard to
Medeiros's motion for a DANC plea, stating:
Medeiros was honest with the DLNR officers that night. Um, he
was honest. Maybe he didn't quite know the law.
[H]e's young. He's 23 years old. He's never been
in trouble before. This is - he's never been arrested
before. I think that this is a huge learning experience for
him. ... I don't think that we'll see him in this
He definitely has support from his family. I think his
parents have been here with him every time in court.
Mr. Medeiros, Sr. wrote a letter explaining the situation. .
. . [P]erhaps this was a misunderstanding in that the
Medeiros family doesn't quite know the law and understand
the law. I think by this point they do.
And ... so I'm comfortable that this was a learning
experience for Mr. Medeiros. I don't think that he will
be back in court again.
And so with regards to the request for a deferral, I'll
defer to the Court on that. . . . [T]he State is requesting,
as pursuant to a plea agreement, the minimum fine, which is
$100.00 on each of the petty misdemeanor counts.
circuit court found that Medeiros was "likely again to
engage in such a criminal course of conduct," and
accordingly, denied Medeiros's motion for a DANC plea.
The circuit court explained its ruling as follows:
[A]ll I have before me is basically the arguments of counsel
and the evidence that the Court heard at the motion to
As far as the request for deferral under [HRS §] 853-l[,
] the Court has to consider whether a defendant voluntarily
pleads no contest, which he has today, prior to the trial,
whether it appears to the Court the defendant is not likely
to again engage in the criminal course of conduct, and
[whether] the ends of justice and the welfare of ...