For six out of the last seven years, an average of about six criminal cases in Hawaii were dismissed per year because the defendants’ rights to a speedy trial were violated, according to a report from the Hawaii Judicial Information System.
Considering that thousands of criminal cases make it through Hawaii’s courts system each year, the report indicates that such dismissals are rare.
On Monday, four cases involving Honolulu police officers accused in an overtime pay scandal were dismissed after a judge ruled that their rights to speedy trials had been violated because prosecutions had not commenced within six months of charges being made.
Prosecutors alleged that several police officers had falsified documents so that their supervisors could get overtime pay.
Judge Edward Kubo ruled that the cases could be dismissed, per Rule 48 under the Hawaii Rules of Penal Procedure.
Rule 48 states that a case can be dismissed by the court “if trial is not commenced within 6 months (180 days).”
But the report on case dismissals in Hawaii suggests that very few criminal cases in the circuit and family courts are dismissed due to Rule 48.
The number of cases dismissed per year under the rule ranged from just two in the 2005-2006 fiscal year to nine in the 2007-2008 fiscal year. Data regarding Rule 48 case dismissals for the 2010-2011 fiscal year are not yet available.
A majority of the cases that were dismissed between 2004 and 2010 involved charges of domestic abuse, theft and firearm possession.
On Monday, Kubo dismissed the cases—which had included charges of fraud and theft—against the two sergeants and two officers, stating they had exceeded the 180-day limit by 5 and 12 days, respectively.
However, according to Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro, the 180-day time span included the four months during which the prosecutors were waiting for the court to rule on their motion that the four cases be consolidated into one.
The motion, made in late November of last year, did not receive a decision until four months later, on Mar. 29.
By that time, the cases had already been transferred from Judge Michael Wilson, the original judge, to Kubo, who took up the cases in early March.
Although the prosecution had contended that time spent deliberating on the motion should have been excluded from the “speedy trial” timetable, the court ruled that only 28 days would be excused, according to Kaneshiro.
If the court had ruled otherwise, “the delay would not have gone over 180 days,” Kaneshiro said.
Kubo’s ruling on whether the cases are dismissed with or without prejudice will determine whether or not prosecutors can refile the charges.