Hawaii DUI Laws

Hawaii DUI Laws

by Corie Lynn Rosen, December 2009

The "Aloha" state may not be contiguous with the majority of the other American states, but, legally speaking, its island status is only a geographic phenomenon. In fact, because of the frequent vacations taken by Americans from all over the country, this island state has been the site of driver's license revocation for far too many tourists. If you are arrested for driving under the influence in Hawaii, your license can be suspended and even revoked in your state of residence.

Additionally, a charge of DUI will give rise to two distinct causes of action - a criminal case and a separate administrative case for license suspension or revocation. In Hawaii, a DUI charge is more commonly referred to as OVUII, or Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of an Intoxicant. Although most states refer to these same laws as "DUI" or "DWI," the Hawaii court will charge OVUII, the functional equivalent.

As in many other states, a criminal trial may proceed based on two possible theories. The first of these theories is a per se violation of the Hawaii DUI law. This means that a person who meets the statutory blood alcohol content (BAC) level at the time of his or her DUI arrest will be found per se guilty of a DUI violation. Like most other American states, Hawaii recognizes .08 percent as the legal BAC level at or beyond which a court determines a driver is per se intoxicated.

If a case is prosecuted under the alternative theory, the court will look for four things: chemical tests, field sobriety test performance, driving patterns, and general appearance of the driver at the time of the arrest. Under this alternative theory, the prosecution will try to use evidence collected from some or all of these categories. The prosecution will attempt to establish that the driver's ability to conduct the vehicle in a safe and reasonable manner was inhibited by a drug, by alcohol consumption, or by some other combination of intoxicants.

In Hawaii, DUIs last for five years before they are removed from a person's record. The first three offenses within five years will trigger increasingly harsh punishments and fines. A first offense will carry with it a fine between $150 and $1,000, a mandatory substance abuse rehabilitation educational program, 72 hours of community service, and/or 48 hours to five days of imprisonment.

A second offense will carry correspondingly increased penalties, incarceration, and fines. In addition to these punishments, any DUI conviction will carry with it a driver's license suspension or revocation. Depending on the severity of the DUI, meaning if anyone was injured or if the driver's test results showed that he or she was intoxicated or drugged to an extremely dangerous level, a judge may opt to increase or adjust the severity and type of punishment for any DUI offense. Any person who is convicted of a DUI four times within five years will be charged and tried with a felony. A fourth-time offender may be sentenced to up to five years in prison.