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Hawaii Drunk Driving Laws

If you’re headed to a luau, you know it’s not a real party until someone cracks open a bottle of okolehao — otherwise known as “Hawaiian Moonshine.” But if you’re planning to partake, make sure you pick a designated driver before the festivities get underway. If you’ve been charged with a DUI while in Paradise, read the information below on Hawaii drunk driving laws and say Aloha to the potential penalties for your offense.

What Hawaii Law Says

If a law enforcement officer has “reasonable suspicion” that you’re driving under the influence, the officer can pull you over and test you. Law enforcement officers can use a series of tests known as field sobriety tests to determine whether you are intoxicated. In addition, to determine your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC), the officer will administer a breathalyzer or chemical blood test.

Under Hawaii’s implied consent rule, if you are driving on Hawaii’s roads, you have consented to being tested (Sec. 291E-11). If a breathalyzer is used, the officer must get two test results, both of which must show a level at or above the legal limit. If the officer uses a blood test, only one result is needed as long as it is conclusive.

When it comes time to determine your punishment, Hawaii has a five-year “washout” period. This means that when the judge is deciding your sentence, only DUIs you were convicted of in the last five years will count toward your number of prior convictions.

Hawaii uses the same limits as most other states:

  • BAC limit of 0.08: Drivers who are at least 21 years of age (Sec. 291E-61(a)).
  • BAC limit of 0.02: Drivers who are under 21 years of age.
  • BAC limit of 0.04: Commercial drivers.
  • BAC of 0.15 or higher: Considered “highly intoxicated” in the state of Hawaii (Sec. 291E-41).

Penalties for Drunk Driving

  • First Drunk Driving Conviction: If you have never before been convicted of a DUI or your last DUI was more than five years ago, your DUI is punishable by 48 hours to five days in jail, a fine of $150 to $1,000, a license suspension of 90 days to one year, and at least 14 hours of alcohol abuse program participation. In some cases, community service might be ordered instead of or in addition to a jail term (Sec. 291E-61(b)(1)).
  • Second Drunk Driving Conviction: If you already have a DUI on your record, it is punishable by five to 14 days in jail. The court also may choose to order community service instead. The court will also order you to attend an alcohol abuse program and pay a fine of $500 to $1,500. A driver’s license suspension of at least one year but no more than two years is mandatory for a second drunk driving conviction in a five-year period (Sec. 291E-61(b)(2)).
  • Third Drunk Driving Conviction: If you’ve been convicted of a DUI twice in the past five years, brace yourself. You’re facing 10 to 30 days in jail, fines from $500 to $2,500, your car may be confiscated by the state, and your license will be suspended for one to five years. While community service might be ordered for third drunk driving convictions, it can’t be offered in lieu of a jail term (Sec. 291E-61(b)(3)).

Additional Penalties for Drunk Driving with a Minor

  • Drunk Driving Conviction with a Minor: If you are convicted of a DUI, you are over 18, and there was a minor younger than 15 in the car with you at the time of your DUI arrest, you will be fined an additional $500 and sentenced to at least 48 hours in jail. Your license will be suspended for at least two years (Sec. 291E-61(b)(4)).

Read the full text of Hawaii’s statutes for more information.

I’ve Been Charged with a DUI in Hawaii: What’s Next?

In most cases, the most effective way to fight a DUI charge is to make one of the following arguments. The first is to argue that the officer unlawfully pulled you over in the first place. The second is to argue that a non-standard field sobriety test was used, such as counting backwards. The third is to argue that the breathalyzer machine malfunctioned. Finally, if none of those arguments applies or works, you can argue that the officer who administered the sobriety tests was improperly trained.