Moving or Equipment Violations
A moving violation is a violation of a statute, ordinance or rule relating to traffic movement and control arising from the operation of a motor vehicle (including a commercial motor vehicle). Pursuant to Hawai`i Revised Statutes § 287-3 (Supp. 2004), all alleged moving violations and convictions appear on an individual’s traffic abstract. Moving violations may be either civil traffic infractions or traffic crimes. Examples of moving traffic infractions include speeding, running a red light or crossing a solid line.
An equipment violation is a violation of a statute, ordinance or rule relating to traffic movement and control that involves equipment, vehicles or their drivers or owners or pedestrians, and miscellaneous offenses not categorized as moving or parking violations. If these violations are observed on a parked vehicle, the citation charging these violations may be affixed to the parked vehicle. Equipment violations may be either civil traffic infractions or traffic crimes. Examples of equipment infractions include not having a front license plate, no current safety check sticker and no current registration decal on a vehicle.
Moving and Equipment Infractions
Moving and equipment traffic infractions are civil offenses not punishable by a prison term. Penalties that may be imposed include monetary assessments (fines, costs, fees, surcharges), community service and attendance at a driving school.
How long do I have to respond to a citation for a moving or equipment infraction?
If you are cited for a moving or equipment traffic infraction, you must send a response to the respective or designated District Court or Traffic Violations Bureau within 21 days of the citation issue date. The court may enter a default judgment on traffic citations that have not been paid or answered within 21 days after the citation was issued.
- Unpaid judgments $500 or less are sent to the collection agency 90 days after the date the default judgment was entered.
- Unpaid judgment greater than $500 are sent to the collection agency 180 days after the date the default judgment was entered. After 90 days, payment for judgments greater than $500 may be made only in person or by mail.
If a case has been sent to a collection agency, the court will no longer take any payment for that case, you must make the payment of the default judgment and any additional fees to the collection agency. Additionally, failure to pay the amount order by the default judgment within 30 days will result in a driver’s license “stopper” being placed on the defendant’s driver’s license record.
Your options are explained in detail on the back of your citation. Basically, you have the following options:
- OPTION 1: ADMIT AND PAY
You can admit the infraction and pay the amount written on the citation, either by mail, using the preprinted envelope; in person at any district court; via the Internet; or by telephone at 800-679-5949. Credit cards (Visa or MasterCard), checks or money orders are accepted. A $25 service charge will be assessed for dishonored payments. Please do not send cash.
- OPTION 2: DENY
If you deny committing the infraction, you may either submit a written statement or request a court hearing. Your request for a hearing or your written statement should be placed in the envelope provided and mailed or delivered to the court within 21 days of the citation issue date. When you request a hearing, the court will notify you (or the registered owner of the vehicle) in writing of the date, time and location. If you disagree with the judge’s decision, you have 30 days to appeal the judgment by requesting a trial. This will be a new trial in which the prosecutor and witnesses will be present and the state must prove the charge by a preponderance of the evidence. To request a trial date, you should complete the “Request a Trial” section in the “Notice of Decision and Judgement” form you will receive. If you do not request a trial within 30 days from the date of the notice, or fail to appear at the trial, the judgment becomes final and the case cannot be reopened.
- OPTION 3: ADMIT BUT EXPLAIN MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES
If you admit committing the infraction but wish to explain mitigating circumstances that caused you to commit the offense or warrant a reduction in penalties, you may either request a hearing and appear in person at the hearing or submit a written statement explaining the mitigating circumstances. Your request for a hearing or your written statement should be placed in the envelope provided and mailed or delivered to the court within 21 days of the citation issue date. If you request a hearing, you will be notified in writing of your court date. The judge’s decision following a hearing or after considering your written statement is final and not appealable.
Please see Tips on Going to Court.
The citation was missing the pre-printed envelope, how do I mail my payment or written statement?
If your citation did not come with an envelope, you may use a blank envelope. Please mail the citation to the District Court on the island that the citation was issued. The mailing address information is provided on the Judiciary’s contact information page.
What will happen if I go to court?
At a hearing to contest a moving or equipment infraction you deny committing, you will be given an opportunity to explain what happened to a judge. After reviewing the officer’s notes and considering your explanation, the judge will determine whether you committed the infraction. If the judge decides the case in your favor, the judge will enter an order dismissing the infraction. If the judge decides the case against you, the judge will enter judgment in favor of the state and impose monetary assessments (fines, court costs, fees, surcharges) and perhaps other penalties. If you disagree with the judgment, you will have 30 days to request a trial de novo.
What if I submit a written statement instead of going to court?
If you choose to submit a written statement instead of appearing in person at a hearing to contest the infraction, write legibly or type your statement. Please be brief and factual. Photographs and other exhibits may be submitted with your written statement, but may not be returned. Mail or deliver your written statement and any supporting exhibits in the envelope provided to the District Court or Traffic Violations Bureau within 21 days. Your statement will be “calendared” and reviewed by a judge. The judge will decide the case after reviewing your written statement and the officer’s notes, and the judge’s decision will be mailed to you. If you denied committing the infraction and the court entered the judgment in favor of the state, you will have 30 days to file a request for a trial de novo. If you admitted the infraction but submitted a written statement explaining mitigating circumstances, you may not appeal the judge’s decision.
What can I do if I received a citation for an equipment civil infraction but have corrected the equipment violation?
If you were cited for not having a valid registration or safety check but have proof that you did possess a registration or safety check at the time the citation was issued, please bring the proof to court.
What is a trial de novo?
If you request a trial de novo (a re-trial in which the parties start over from the beginning and proceed as if the first hearing never happened), you will be given a trial date. If you fail to appear in court on your trial date, the judgment entered in favor of the state will stand. You will then have 30 days to make payment of the monetary assessments and comply with the penalties imposed by the judgment.
If you appear at the trial de novo, the judge will vacate the previously entered judgment in favor of the state. There will be a deputy prosecutor present who will be required to prove the infraction against you by a preponderance of the evidence. The trial will be conducted pursuant to Chapter 291D of the Hawai’i Revised Statutes, Hawai’i Rules of Penal Procedure, Rules of the District Court, and Hawai`i Rules of Evidence. If the court decides in the state’s favor, a judgment for the state will be entered. An appeal from the court’s judgment entered after a trial de novo may be taken in the manner provided for appeals from district court civil judgments.
Moving or Equipment/Miscellaneous Traffic Crimes
Moving traffic crimes include reckless driving, driving without a license, racing on the highway, no motor vehicle insurance (after the first offense), consuming liquor while operating a vehicle, and possessing an open liquor container in a vehicle. A defendant may be arrested for a moving traffic crime pursuant to a citation or penal summons complaint, or by being physically taken into police custody and “booked” (photographed, fingerprinted, etc.).
A defendant charged with a moving or equipment/miscellaneous traffic crime is required to appear in court at the date, time and location written on the citation, penal summons complaint, bail receipt or other notice given to the defendant upon being released following a physical arrest to plead to the charge or charges. Failure to appear in court as required may result in a bench warrant issued for the defendant’s arrest.
In court, the judge will explain to the defendant his or her rights and options. If necessary, the defendant will be referred to the Office of the Public Defender for free legal representation.