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Hawaii Supreme Court Holds a DUI Suspect May Not Be Preemptively Refused The Opportunity to Communicate with Counsel

The Hawaii Supreme Court recently addressed the right of a DUI suspect to communicate and consult with counsel under Hawaii law. Following his DUI arrest, the defendant was affirmatively advised that he was not entitled to an attorney before submitting to any tests to determine his breath or blood alcohol concentration. The Hawaii Supreme Court held that the defendant was erroneously denied access to counsel, but under the facts of the case, his refusal to submit to testing was not subject to suppression.

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In June 2013, the defendant was stopped while driving west on Kailua Road by two Honolulu police officers for weaving between lanes. An officer informed the defendant why he had stopped him, and the defendant responded that he had consumed a few drinks with his friends. The officer detected an odor of alcohol emitting from the defendant’s breath and noticed that he was flushed. The other officer administered field sobriety testing to the defendant, and based on the results, he arrested the defendant and took him to the police station.

After being booked, the second officer read to the defendant the implied consent form, which he refused to sign. A portion of the form explicitly states:  “You are not entitled to an attorney before you submit to any tests [sic] or tests to determine your alcohol and/or drug content.”

Prior to trial, the defendant moved to suppress the evidence. He argued that since he was denied the chance to consult with an attorney, his decision to refuse to sign the implied consent form was neither knowing nor intelligent. The government argued that a defendant lacks a right to an attorney at that stage because administering blood and breath tests is akin to a booking procedure. The trial court agreed and denied the defendant’s motion. At trial, the defendant was convicted of DUI. The intermediate court affirmed the conviction.

The state supreme court disagreed. It held that the officer gave the defendant incorrect information related to the implied consent form when, following the defendant’s arrest, he read from the form that the defendant was not entitled to an attorney before submitting to alcohol concentration testing. This information, the court held, clearly implicated the defendant’s statutory right to see, send a message to, and otherwise communicate with counsel following an arrest pursuant to Hawaii law.

The right to an attorney, the court reasoned, does not depend on whether a police interrogation has occurred, but instead a suspect may not be preemptively refused the chance to communicate with counsel. Both lower courts incorrectly concluded that the statutory right to counsel is only implicated by an interrogation following an arrest. Since the officer’s reading of the form was not consistent with Hawaii law, and since no officer corrected the erroneous information provided, the court held his reading of the implied consent form violated the defendant’s statutory right to access counsel. The district court and the intermediate court, the state supreme court held, erred in concluding otherwise.

The state high court nonetheless concluded, however, that the defendant failed to meet his burden to show that the violation of the statute affected his choice to refuse chemical testing. The district court therefore did not err in denying the defendant’s motion to suppress, and the intermediate court did not err in affirming the district court’s judgment. Thus, the lower courts’ decisions were affirmed.

If you have been charged with a DUI offense in Illinois, it is crucial to speak to an experienced Illinois DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Harvatin Law Offices, PC provides knowledgeable representation to people in Springfield and throughout Illinois. We have considerable experience defending individuals charged with DUI offenses and representing drivers with revoked licenses before the Illinois Secretary of State. To learn more, and to set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us toll-free at 1-800-829-8513.

More Blog Posts:

Illinois Appeals Court Upholds Ruling for DUI Defendant Based on Officer’s Unconvincing Testimony, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blog, June 5, 2017.

Colorado Supreme Court Upholds Express Consent Statute, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blog, June 1, 2017.

Kansas Supreme Court Holds Officer Lacked Reasonable Suspicion to Stop DUI Defendant Based on “Power Braking,” Illinois DUI Lawyer Blog, May 1, 2017.