HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

H.B. NO.

903

THIRTIETH LEGISLATURE, 2019

 

STATE OF HAWAII

 

 

 

 

 

 

A BILL FOR AN ACT

 

 

RELATING TO THE JUDICIARY.

 

 

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:

 


SECTION 1. The legislature finds that the imposition of excessive fines and fees has dire consequences for low-income individuals. Under Hawaii law, individuals who cannot afford to pay court-ordered fines or fees may have their driver's licenses suspended for failure to pay. For many individuals, especially those living in more remote areas with minimal or no public transportation, driver's license suspensions may deprive individuals of their only means of transportation to and from work. Furthermore, individuals with suspended driver's licenses who are unable to find alternative means of transportation may lose their employment. With limited or no income, individuals are even less likely to pay fines or fees, which may lead to greater penalties simply because those individuals are unable to pay initial fines or fees in one lump sum.

The purpose of this Act is to address the financial disparity imposed on low-income individuals by:

(1) Requiring the judiciary to implement a program that offers a person the option of entering into either a payment plan or community service plan for any court-ordered fine, fee, surcharge, cost, or monetary assessment if the person, due to financial hardship, is unable to pay any of the foregoing in a lump sum;

(2) Prohibiting the courts from taking certain actions against a person if the person has entered into and is in compliance with the payment plan or community service plan; and

(3) Reinstating driver's licenses that were suspended for nonpayment under certain circumstances.

SECTION 2. Chapter 601, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new section to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:

"601- Hardship program. (a) The judiciary shall implement a program that offers any qualifying person the option to fulfill any court-ordered financial obligation through:

(1) Installment payments in a payment plan; or

(2) The performance of community service.

(b) The following minimum requirements shall apply to a person who wishes to participate in the hardship program by entering into an installment payment plan:

(1) A person shall not qualify to enter into a payment plan unless the person demonstrates to the judiciary's satisfaction that the person suffers from a financial hardship that prevents the person from paying a court-ordered financial obligation in one lump sum; and

(2) If a qualified person enters into a payment plan, the amount of each installment payment ordered shall be adjusted based on the qualifying person's income; provided that the length of any payment plan shall not exceed two years.

(c) The following minimum requirements shall apply to a person who wishes to participate in the hardship program by entering into a community service plan:

(1) A person shall not qualify to enter into a community service plan unless the person demonstrates to the judiciary's satisfaction that the person cannot pay a court-ordered financial obligation because the person has suffered from a severe loss of income or has no income; and

(2) If a qualified person enters into a community service plan, the court shall order the participant to perform the equivalent of hours of community service, over the course of a periodic schedule determined by the court, for each $ that the participant owes of a court-ordered financial obligation.

(d) Notwithstanding any other state or county law to the contrary, a court shall not suspend a person's driver's license or prevent the:

(1) Issuance or renewal of the driver's license;

(2) Registration or renewal of a motor vehicle's certificate of registration; or

(3) Transfer of title to a motor vehicle to another person,

solely because that person is unable to pay any court-ordered financial obligation; provided that the person is a participant in and is in compliance with the hardship program established under this section; provided further that this subsection shall not preclude any court from acting in compliance with federal law.

(e) The judiciary shall order the reinstatement of any driver's license that was suspended if the:

(1) Driver's license was suspended solely because the licensee was unable to pay any court-ordered financial obligation;

(2) Licensee is a participant in and is in compliance with the hardship program established under this section; and

(3) The reinstatement is not inconsistent with federal law.

(f) For the purposes of this section, "court-ordered financial obligation" means any fine, fee, surcharge, cost, or monetary assessment ordered by a court of this State."

SECTION 3. Section 286-245, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending subsection (a) to read as follows:

"(a) Whenever a person is convicted of a moving traffic violation based on a statute, ordinance, or rule[,]; fails to appear for a hearing, trial, or other court or administrative proceeding on the moving traffic violation[,]; or fails to pay a fine or court cost ordered for a moving violation, the state judiciary shall forward to the examiner of drivers the record of the conviction. A person shall not be deemed to have failed to pay a fine or court cost under this subsection if the person is a participant in and is in compliance with the hardship program established under section 601- for that same fine or court cost. The record of conviction shall include whether the offender was operating a commercial motor vehicle at the time of the offense, whether the offender was transporting hazardous materials requiring placarding under title 49 Code of Federal Regulations part 172, subpart F, the citation date, the conviction date, the citation number, the court in which the conviction occurred, and the offenses for which the person has been convicted. No record of conviction transmitted and maintained in the statewide traffic records system shall be used for purposes other than the licensing of drivers, including any record of:

(1) Driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or any drug that impairs driving ability;

(2) Driving a commercial motor vehicle while the alcohol concentration of the driver's blood is 0.04 or more grams of alcohol per two hundred ten liters of breath or 0.04 or more grams of alcohol per one hundred milliliters or cubic centimeters of blood;

(3) Refusing to submit to a test to determine the driver's alcohol concentration while driving a motor vehicle as required under sections 286-243 and 291E-11;

(4) Using a motor vehicle in the commission of any felony;

(5) Leaving the scene of an accident involving the motor vehicle driven by the person;

(6) Unlawful transportation, possession, or use of a controlled substance while on duty;

(7) Driving a commercial motor vehicle if, as a result of prior violations committed while operating a commercial motor vehicle, the driver's commercial learner's permit or commercial driver's license has been revoked, suspended, or canceled, or the driver has been otherwise disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle; or

(8) Causing a fatality through the operation of a commercial motor vehicle, including in the commission of the crimes of manslaughter and negligent homicide in any degree."

SECTION 4. Section 291C-170, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended to read as follows:

"291C-170 Revocation or suspension of license. In addition to the penalties heretofore provided, the court may revoke or may suspend, for a period not to exceed one year, the license of any driver convicted of a violation of any section or provision of the state traffic laws involving a vehicle in motion[.]; provided that the court shall not order the revocation or suspension of a driver's license solely on the basis of the driver's nonpayment of a court-ordered fine, fee, surcharge, cost, or monetary assessment if the driver is a participant in and is in compliance with the hardship program established under section 601- for that same court-ordered fine, fee, surcharge, cost, or monetary assessment."

SECTION 5. Section 291D-5, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending subsection (d) to read as follows:

"(d) The notice of traffic infraction shall include the following:

(1) A statement of the specific traffic infraction for which the notice was issued;

(2) Except in the case of parking-related traffic infractions, a brief statement of the facts;

(3) A statement of the total amount to be paid for each traffic infraction, which amount shall include any fee, surcharge, or cost required by statute, ordinance, or rule, and any monetary assessment, established for the particular traffic infraction pursuant to section 291D-9, to be paid by the driver or registered owner of the vehicle, which shall be uniform throughout the State;

(4) A statement of the options provided in section 291D-6(b) for answering the notice and the procedures necessary to exercise the options;

(5) A statement that the person to whom the notice is issued must answer, choosing one of the options specified in section 291D-6(b), within twenty-one days of issuance of the notice;

(6) A statement that failure to answer the notice of traffic infraction within twenty-one days of issuance shall result in the entry of judgment by default for the State and may result in the assessment of a late penalty, and, that if the person to whom the notice was issued fails to pay the total amount specified in the default judgment within an additional thirty days, enter into the hardship program established under section 601- , or [to] otherwise take action to set aside the default, notice shall be sent to the director of finance of the appropriate county:

(A) That the person to whom the notice of infraction not involving parking was issued shall not be permitted to renew or obtain a driver's license; or

(B) Where the notice was issued to a motor vehicle, that the registered owner shall not be permitted to register, renew the registration of, or transfer title to the motor vehicle until the traffic infraction is finally disposed of pursuant to this chapter, except as provided in section 291D-10(b);

(7) A statement that, at a hearing requested to contest the notice of traffic infraction conducted pursuant to section 291D-8, no officer shall be present unless the driver timely requests the court to have the officer present, and that the standard of proof to be applied by the court is whether a preponderance of the evidence proves that the specified traffic infraction was committed;

(8) A statement that, at a hearing requested for the purpose of explaining mitigating circumstances surrounding the commission of the infraction or in consideration of a written request for mitigation, the person shall be considered to have committed the traffic infraction;

(9) A space in which the signature of the person to whom the notice was issued may be affixed; and

(10) The date, time, and place at which the person to whom the notice was issued must appear in court, if the person is required by the notice to appear in person at the hearing."

SECTION 6. Section 291D-9, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending subsection (c) to read as follows:

"(c) In addition to any monetary assessment imposed for a traffic infraction, the court may impose additional assessments for:

(1) Failure to pay a monetary assessment by the scheduled date of payment[; or], including failure to timely pay an installment payment required by a payment plan established under section 601- (b);

(2) Failure to timely perform community service required by a community service plan established under section 601- (c); or

[(2)] (3) The cost of service of a penal summons issued pursuant to this chapter."

SECTION 7. Section 291D-10, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended to read as follows:

"291D-10 Restriction on driver's license and motor vehicle registration. (a) When the person issued a notice of traffic infraction not involving parking fails to pay the total amount of fines, fees, surcharges, costs, or monetary assessments that has been ordered, the court shall cause an entry to be made in the driver's license record so as to prevent the person from acquiring or renewing the person's driver's license until the outstanding amount is paid or the notice of traffic infraction is otherwise disposed of pursuant to this chapter[.]; provided that if a person is a participant in and is in compliance with the hardship program established under section 601- for the same fines, fees, surcharges, costs, or monetary assessments, this subsection shall not prevent the person from acquiring or renewing the person's driver's license.

(b) In [all cases] any case where the registered owner of a motor vehicle to which a notice of traffic infraction has been issued fails to pay the total amount of fines, fees, surcharges, costs, or monetary assessments that have been ordered, other than a case where the registered owner is a participant in and is in compliance with the hardship program established under section 601- for the same fines, fees, surcharges, costs, or monetary assessments, the court shall cause an entry to be made in the motor vehicle's record so as to prevent issuance or renewal of the motor vehicle's certificate of registration and transfer of title to the motor vehicle until the outstanding amount is paid or the notice of traffic infraction is otherwise disposed of pursuant to this chapter; provided that if the traffic infraction involves an unpaid parking violation, this subsection shall not prevent the issuance or renewal of the motor vehicle's certificate of registration and transfer of title to the motor vehicle to another person, in which case the clerk of the court shall issue a clearance to effectuate the registration and transfer of title; and provided further that in no event shall a clearance:

(1) Absolve the registered owner of the motor vehicle at the time the parking violation was incurred from paying the fine;

(2) Prevent any subsequent issuance or renewal of the motor vehicle's certificate of registration and transfer of title to the motor vehicle; or

(3) Otherwise encumber the title of that motor vehicle."

SECTION 8. Section 291D-12, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended to read as follows:

"291D-12 Powers of the district court judge sitting in the traffic division. A district court judge sitting in the traffic division and hearing cases pursuant to this chapter shall have all the powers of a district court judge under chapter 604, including the following powers:

(1) To conduct traffic infraction hearings and to impose monetary assessments;

(2) To permit deferral of monetary assessment or impose community service in lieu thereof;

(3) To dismiss a notice of traffic infraction, with or without prejudice, or to set aside a judgment for the State;

(4) To order temporary driver's license suspension or driver's license reinstatement; provided that if a person is a participant in and is in compliance with the hardship program established under section 601‑   , the court shall not order the suspension of that person's driver's license solely on the basis of the person's nonpayment of any court-ordered fines, fees, surcharges, costs, or monetary assessments covered by the payment plan;

(5) To order the director of finance not to issue or renew the driver's license, or to register, renew the registration of, or issue title to a motor vehicle, of any person who has not paid a monetary assessment, has not performed community service in lieu thereof, or has not otherwise satisfied a judgment for the State entered pursuant to this chapter; provided that if the person is a participant in and is in compliance with the hardship program established under section 601‑   , the court shall not issue an order under this paragraph solely on the basis of the person's nonpayment of any court-ordered fines, fees, surcharges, costs, or monetary assessments covered by the payment plan;

(6) To approve the issuance or renewal of a driver's license or instruction permit pursuant to section 286‑109(c);

(7) To issue penal summonses and bench warrants and initiate contempt of court proceedings in proceedings conducted pursuant to section 291D-13;

(8) To issue penal summonses and bench warrants and initiate failure to appear proceedings in proceedings conducted pursuant to section 291D-5(d)(10); and

(9) To exercise other powers the court finds necessary and appropriate to carry out the purposes of this chapter."

SECTION 9. This Act does not affect rights and duties that matured, penalties that were incurred, and proceedings that were begun before its effective date.

SECTION 10. Statutory material to be repealed is bracketed and stricken. New statutory material is underscored.

SECTION 11. This Act shall take effect on July 1, 2019.

 

INTRODUCED BY:

_____________________________

 

 


 



 

Report Title:

Hardship Program; Driver's License; Motor Vehicle Registration and Title

 

Description:

Requires the Judiciary to implement a program that offers any qualifying person the option to fulfill any court-ordered financial obligation through: (1) installment payments in a payment plan; or (2) the performance of community service. Prohibits the courts from taking certain actions against a person solely because of that person's inability to pay if the person has entered into and is in compliance with the programs. Reinstates driver's licenses that were suspended for nonpayment under certain circumstances.

 

 

 

The summary description of legislation appearing on this page is for informational purposes only and is not legislation or evidence of legislative intent.