§706-659 Sentence of imprisonment for class A felony. Notwithstanding part II; sections 706-605, 706-606, 706-606.5, 706-660.1, 706-661, and 706-662; and any other law to the contrary, a person who has been convicted of a class A felony, except class A felonies defined in chapter 712, part IV, or section 707-702, shall be sentenced to an indeterminate term of imprisonment of twenty years without the possibility of suspension of sentence or probation. The minimum length of imprisonment shall be determined by the Hawaii paroling authority in accordance with section 706-669. A person who has been convicted of a class A felony defined in chapter 712, part IV, or section 707-702, may be sentenced to an indeterminate term of imprisonment, except as provided for in section 706-660.1 relating to the use of firearms in certain felony offenses and section 706-606.5 relating to repeat offenders. When ordering such a sentence, the court shall impose the maximum length of imprisonment which shall be twenty years. The minimum length of imprisonment shall be determined by the Hawaii paroling authority in accordance with section 706-669. [L 1980, c 294, §1; am L 1994, c 229, §3; am L 2012, c 292, §4]
COMMENTARY ON §706-659
Act 294, Session Laws 1980, enacted this section to provide for automatic sentence of imprisonment for any person convicted of a class A felony. The legislature stated: "Your Committee feels that the seriousness of class A felonies...merits mandatory imprisonment. This bill effects this purpose by denying suspension of sentence and probation as sentencing options in class A convictions, but retains, through indeterminate sentence, the option of parole by the paroling authority in order that unusual extenuating circumstances can be given due consideration." Senate Standing Committee Report No. 965-80.
Act 229, Session Laws 1994, amended this section, inter alia, to allow the court to make an exception for a person convicted of a class A felony defined in chapter 712, part IV, from the mandatory sentence of an indeterminate term of imprisonment without the possibility of suspension of sentence or probation. The legislature believed that, in certain instances, the public is better served by allowing judges some discretion in evaluating all appropriate sentencing and treatment alternatives available for drug offenders. Conference Committee Report No. 62.
Act 292, Session Laws 2012, amended this section by exempting a person convicted of manslaughter from a mandatory indeterminate term of twenty years imprisonment without the possibility of suspension of sentence or probation, but allowing that person to be sentenced to an indeterminate maximum and minimum term of imprisonment to be determined by the court and paroling authority respectively. The legislature noted that traffic related fatalities were a serious issue and that persons convicted of certain offenses involving traffic fatalities should be dealt with accordingly. The legislature found that Act 292 provided clarity regarding the imposition of a term of imprisonment, as a condition for probation, for a person convicted of manslaughter, and makes this section consistent with §706-620(2), which allows for a sentence of probation for an offense of manslaughter. Senate Standing Committee Report No. 3229, Conference Committee Report No. 44-12.
Law Journals and Reviews
The Protection of Individual Rights Under Hawai‘i's Constitution. 14 UH L. Rev. 311 (1992).
Reasonable inference could be drawn that sentencing court considered special eight-year term under §706-667 prior to sentencing young adult defendant to twenty-year term. 73 H. 259, 831 P.2d 523 (1992).
Although "drug use" is not a prerequisite to eligibility for probation under this section, the legislature contemplated, consistent with the factors enumerated in §706-621, that the trial court would grant probation in cases where strong mitigating circumstances favored it. 97 H. 440, 39 P.3d 567 (2002).