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Hawaii Criminal Law: An Overview

Even if you’re a vacationing tourist, you may still be held liable for criminal and non-criminal offenses during your stay at Hawaii. If you do get yourself in trouble while in paradise, you’ll want to brush up on Hawaii’s criminal laws to prepare your case.

Use LawInfo’s criminal law articles to help educate yourself about Hawaii’s laws and how they affect your case. You can learn about the difference between misdemeanors and felonies, intoxicated driving charges and many other state-specific criminal law topics. You can also use LawInfo to connect with a Hawaii criminal law attorney in Honolulu, Mililani, Pearl City or elsewhere in the state.

Crime Classifications in Hawaii

Every state has its own system of classifying crimes which also identifies the statutory punishments for each classification. Hawaii has three main classifications of criminal offenses: felonies, misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors. Non-criminal offenses are called violations, which only carry fines, forfeitures or other civil penalties, excluding imprisonment.

A defining factor for all three of these criminal classifications is the amount of imprisonment time each may impose. Felonies carry more than one year of imprisonment, misdemeanors carry less than one year and petty misdemeanors carry less than 30 days.

Aside from imprisonment, felonies, misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors may carry a statutory fine. Petty misdemeanors—the least serious criminal offenses—can carry a fine of up to $1,000. Class A felonies—the most serious criminal offenses—can carry a fine of up to $50,000.

Hawaii Criminal Record Expungement

A criminal record is oftentimes a difficult obstacle to overcome in life. It can affect your career, voting rights, eligibility for housing and other personal liberties. Hawaii law offers some relief for qualified residents with a criminal record through expungement. You can petition to have specific criminal offenses sealed from public access.

Crimes that you were arrested and charged with, but not convicted for, may be expunged from your record. If you have a juvenile arrest record for crimes committed prior to your 18th birthday, the record is automatically sealed. You can still request to have certain juvenile offenses expunged.

The expungement process is a complicated one to understand due to a number of restrictions and rules. It’s best to consult an attorney about expunging offenses from your criminal record.

Hawaii Criminal Statute of Limitations

Like for every other state, Hawaii’s criminal laws don’t hold every person indefinitely liable for their crimes. Only the most serious criminal offenses—such as first and second-degree murder, attempted murder and first and second-degree sexual assault—can be prosecuted at any time, indefinitely. Hawaii’s statute of limitations sets time limits in which less serious crimes may be prosecuted. Starting from the time when the crime was committed, you may only pursue legal action against:

  • A violation (other than a parking violation) or a petty misdemeanor within one year.
  • A parking violation or a misdemeanor within two years.
  • A computer-related felony within five years.
  • A class A felony within six years.
  • Any other felony within three years.
  • A manslaughter offense that didn’t involve a vehicle within 10 years.

Certain conditions of an offense such as if it was committed by a public officer or if it involved fraud may permit extensions to the offense’s statute of limitation.

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