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Hawaii Court Records

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What Are Hawaii Specialized Courts?

Hawaii Specialized Courts are courts of record with jurisdiction over specific matters. Although these courts may operate under District or Circuit Courts, Hawaii Specialized Courts were created to give more attention to specialized issues. The Hawaii State Judiciary runs the following specialized courts:

  • Mental Health Court
  • Veterans Treatment Court
  • Land Court
  • Tax Appeal Court
  • Environmental Court
  • DWI Court

Mental Health Court

The Mental Health Court allows certain offenders to take part in community-based treatment instead of incarceration at a detention facility. The offenders are enrolled in treatment programs to help them recover from diagnosed mental illnesses.

Apart from recovery, Mental Health Courts also help manage related public safety issues. The program offers specialized and intensive care for substance abuse recovery, psychiatric treatment, and psycho-social rehabilitation. In addition to the treatment, participants may also receive benefits based on participation and successful completion of the program. Participants may receive probation, reduced jail sentences, and, in some cases, total dismissal of charges. However, note that these benefits are awarded on a case-by-case basis.

Persons admitted into a mental health treatment program must meet the following conditions:

  • At least 18 years old, or in some cases, waived to adult court
  • Must be diagnosed by mental health professionals with a serious and persistent mental illness (SPMI). The SPMI must be the primary cause of the defendant’s tendency to engage in criminal activity and cause impairment in a cognitive, behavioral, or emotional performance. Mental health professionals must also confirm that without treatment and other rehabilitation services, the person will not function properly in the community. Some examples of eligible diagnoses include bipolar disorders, delusional disorders, schizophrenia, depressive disorders, and schizoaffective disorders.
  • Must have little to no history of violence. In some cases, the court may admit persons charged with violent offenses if these persons do not pose a threat to public safety.
  • Must have no legal setbacks to participation in the court
  • Must be considered treatable by mental health professionals.
  • Must not be charged with a sex offense
  • Must not have chemical dependency as the primary diagnosis or the offender’s principal reason for criminal behavior.

Participants are admitted into the Mental Health Court after referrals from their attorneys. The court coordinator, case manager, and a court case supervisor manage the participant and schedule regular hearings to measure recovery. Treatment usually takes about two years.

Veterans Treatment Court

The Veterans Treatment Court helps provide assistance, resources, and treatment that veterans need upon return from service. The court helps veterans with treatment, employment and provides other assistance necessary for them to live as law-abiding citizens.

As part of the program, the court pairs participants with veteran mentors. Although these mentors volunteer, the court makes sure that the mentors understand veterans, their service lives, and their difficulties upon return.  

Participants are subject to certain compulsory program requirements. For instance, veterans must take a urine analysis test regularly or as directed by the court. Any participant that defies any of the court’s terms may be sentenced to jail time.

Land Court

The Hawaii Land Court exercises exclusive and original jurisdiction over all matters concerning the registration of title to land easements, rights related to land ownership, and any other cases as may be directed by the state’s Land Court Registration law. The Land Court has the authority to resolve all questions regarding related applications.

One or more judges hear related matters of the First Circuit Court. The First Circuit Court’s Administrative Judge assigns judges to these cases under the authority of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Note that in some instances, the Land Court hears cases on petitions for subdivisions and other matters that seek to designate and delete easement. Persons interested in contacting or visiting the Land Court may do so using the following information:

Land Court

Ka’ahumanu Hale

777 Punchbowl Street

Honolulu, Hawai’i 96813–5093

Phone: (808)539–4777

Fax: (808) 539–4713

Tax Appeal Court

The Tax Appeal Court is a court of record that has authority over questions of fact and law regarding real property taxation. The Tax Appeal Court may also hear constitutional questions and rule on these without assistance or a jury’s direction. Generally, the Tax Appeal Court exercises jurisdiction over all disputes between a taxpayer and the tax assessor. Typically, these include disputes over taxes such as insurance, property, excise, income, and liquor. Interested persons may contact the Tax Appeal Court at:

Tax Appeal Court

Ka’ahumanu Hale

777 Punchbowl Street

Honolulu, Hawai’i 96813–5093

Phone: (808) 539–4777

Fax: (808) 539–4713

Environmental Court

Chapter 604A of the Hawaii Revised Statutes enacts Environmental Courts, giving the courts broad jurisdiction over cases involving environmental elements. These include forests, air, mountains, water, beaches, marine life, and terrestrial life.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court assigns one or more judges to determine Environmental Court cases. If an Environmental Court has more than one judge, the Chief Justice may designate one of them as Senior Judge. Note that the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice may temporarily assign an Environmental Court judge from one circuit to another depending on each court’s workload.

DWI (Driving While Impaired) Court

Established in 2013, the DWI Court Program was created due to a rise in the number of fatal vehicle accidents caused by intoxicated drivers. Instead of sentencing all convicted persons to jail, the DWI court explores other therapeutic options. The program is a court-regulated and monitored treatment plan to give offenders the support required to reduce alcohol dependence and keep related offenses at a minimum. Note that this program is only open to non-violent OVUII (Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of an Intoxicant) offenders.

The DWI Court Program also provides case management services that help participants with health insurance, housing, employment, and general skill development. Participants may enter the court program voluntarily after entering a guilty or no contest plea.

The DWI Court judge has the sole authority to determine participants allowed into the program. Although the program may run much longer, it may not be less than 12 months. Generally, the DWI Court Program duration is determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on each person’s compliance and recovery rate. 

The following are factors that disqualify an offender from participating in the program:

  • A previous conviction for a violent crime
  • A prior felony prison term
  • A long criminal record
  • Possession of firearms when arrested for OVUII
  • Previous participation in the program
  • A disability that would impede full participation in the program
  • A felony conviction for selling a controlled substance

The program is open to anyone that meets the eligibility requirements. However, the program targets offenders with the following:

  • Two previous OVUII convictions within ten years
  • One prior OVUII conviction and a simultaneous charge for driving with a revoked or suspended license
  • One prior OVUII conviction with a BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) of at least.15
  • One prior OVUII conviction and a simultaneous charge for a minor motor vehicle accident or leaving the scene of an accident

All parties dissatisfied with any specialized court’s ruling may appeal to the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals. Further appeals may be channeled to the Supreme Court.

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