Hawaii’s OVUII/DUI Laws and Conviction Penalties

The consequences of a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd impaired driving violation in Hawaii.

Like all states, Hawaii prohibits driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol. However, the official name of the offense in Hawaii is "operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant" (OVUII).

Hawaii actually has three categories of DUI violations. This article outlines how each of these offenses is defined, as well as the associated penalties.

Hawaii's DUI/OVUII Laws

To get a DUI conviction in court, the prosecutor must prove that the accused was driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle:

  • with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or greater,
  • while the driver's ability to operate a vehicle in a careful and prudent manner is impaired by drugs or other intoxicants, or
  • while the driver's mental faculties are diminished to some material degree because of consuming alcohol.

In other words, a DUI conviction can be based on BAC or actual impairment.

What It Means to be in "Actual Physical Control" of a Vehicle Under Hawaii's DUI Laws

Most DUI offenses involve actual driving (a vehicle in motion). Under the Hawaii statutes, though, a person can be guilty of DUI in a stationary vehicle if they are found to be in "actual physical control" of the vehicle.

Actual physical control generally includes any scenario where the person has the immediate ability to engage or control the vehicle. Thus, falling asleep in the driver's seat of a running but parked car can lead to a DUI conviction. Courts generally look at where the accused was sitting, whether the keys were in the ignition, and other similar factors to determine actual physical control.

Proof of Intoxication for a DUI Offense in Hawaii

Hawaii's DUI laws cover three different types of impairment:

  • Per se DUI. A driver with a BAC of .08% or more is guilty of a "per se" DUI. For a per se DUI, the prosecutor does not need to prove that the driver was actually impaired.
  • Impaired by alcohol. A driver can also be convicted of DUI if his or her mental faculties are diminished because of consuming alcohol. A driver is considered unlawfully impaired if his or her ability to operate a vehicle in a careful or prudent manner is in some way diminished.
  • Impaired by drugs. A driver who's intoxicated by drugs or other intoxicants can also be convicted of a DUI. The definition of drug impairment is essentially the same as the impairment definition for alcohol explained above.

Hawaii also has a list of controlled substances that qualify as drugs that includes substances such as methamphetamines and certain prescription drugs. The fact that a driver was lawfully prescribed a controlled substance is not a defense to impaired driving charges.

Penalties for a 1st and 2nd DUI in Hawaii

The penalties for a DUI conviction generally vary based on the number of prior convictions the driver has in the last ten years. A first or second-offense DUI will generally be a misdemeanor.

Jail, Fines, and Community Service for Hawaii DUI Convictions

The chart below outlines the range of jail time and fines for a first and second DUI conviction in Hawaii.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

Jail

48 hours to 5 days

5 to 30 days jail

Fines

$250 to $1,000

$1,000 to $3,000

Substance Abuse Evaluations for Hawaii DUI Offenders

As part of probation, all DUI offenders will be required to complete an assessment from a certified substance abuse counselor. The court will review the counselor's recommendations and may include treatment as a part of the probationary requirements.

A second offense DUI conviction requires a minimum 36-hour substance abuse program or other approved rehabilitative program.

Completion of the treatment program can also be required for a suspended driver to reinstate driving privileges.

Hawaii's Enhanced DUI Penalties for Minor Passengers

A DUI offender who was transporting passengers under the age of 15 will face additional jail and fines. Having a child passenger will add an additional 48 hours of jail and $500 fine to the offender's sentence.

Hawaii DUI Probation

Most DUI offenders will be placed on probation as part of their sentence. While on probation, offenders must comply with certain requirements (such as treatment and maintaining sobriety). Failure to comply can result in additional jail time.

Generally, offenders must serve the minimum required jail penalty before being placed on probation. However, the court can order community service instead of the minimum jail period in some cases.

Hawaii's DUI Enhancement Penalties for Highly Intoxicated Drivers

Often called an "aggravated DUI," a driver with a BAC of .15% or more is considered a "highly intoxicated driver" and will face increased penalties. A BAC of .15% or more will add 48 hours of jail to a first-offense DUI and ten days to a second or subsequent DUI sentence.

Hawaii Felony DUI Penalties—3rd and Subsequent DUI Convictions

A third DUI conviction in a ten-year period can be charged as a "habitual violator" DUI—a class C felony. Any future DUI conviction—regardless of how long it's been—will also be considered a felony.

As a class C felony, a habitual violator felony will result in up to five years in prison and $2,000 to $5,000 in fines. If the offender is granted probation, the probation will last five years and require the offender to complete substance abuse counseling and a driver's education program. The court can also order remote alcohol monitoring and vehicle forfeiture.

A felony DUI involving a BAC of .15% or more can result in up to ten years imprisonment. If probation is granted, the probation must be for five years and will include 18 months in prison, permanent license revocation, $5,000 to $25,000 in fines, treatment, and vehicle forfeiture.

License-Related Penalties for Hawaii DUI/OVUII Offenses

A DUI will typically lead to license-related penalties. These penalties vary depending on the number of prior alcohol or drug-related contacts (qualifying priors include DUI convictions, test failures, and test refusals) within the last ten years as well as the driver's cooperation with testing.

License-related penalties can result from a DUI arrest and/or conviction.

Hawaii's Implied Consent Law

Hawaii's "implied consent" law generally requires all drivers who are lawfully arrested for driving under the influence to submit to breath, blood or urine testing when requested to do so by an officer. The tests are used to determine the presence or quantity of consumed drugs or alcohol. A driver can refuse testing, but refusal may lead to other penalties.

Refusing a Chemical Test in Hawaii

When a driver refuses to take a chemical test, the officer will seize the driver's license and issue a temporary permit. After the report is sent to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the driver's license will be suspended for:

  • two years for a first offense
  • three years if the driver has one alcohol or drug-related contact within the last ten years, and
  • four years if the driver has two prior alcohol or drug-related contacts within the last ten years.

Also, prosecutors can use the fact that a driver refused testing in court while trying to prove a DUI charge.

Failing a Chemical Test in Hawaii

If a driver submits to testing and produces a BAC that's at least .08%, the officer will seize the driver's license. Upon receiving the officer's report, the DMV will suspend the driver's license for:

  • one year for a first offense
  • two years if the driver has one drug or alcohol contact within the last ten years, and
  • four years if the driver has two drug or alcohol contacts within the last ten years.

A test result showing drugs or excessive alcohol will likely be used in court to prove the impairment of the driver.

License Revocation for DUI Convictions in Hawaii

All DUI convictions result in driver's license suspension. After receiving the abstract of conviction, the DMV will suspend the driver's license for:

  • one year for a first-offense DUI
  • two to three years for a second offense,
  • three to five years for a third offense.

A driver who had a BAC of .15% or more will face longer revocation periods.

Generally, when multiple revocations are imposed for a single incident, the revocation periods run together rather than back-to-back.

Getting a DUI Restricted License in Hawaii

During the revocation period, drivers are required to install and maintain an ignition interlock device (IID). This device prevents a driver from starting the vehicle if he or she has consumed alcohol but also permits the revoked driver to operate a vehicle during the revocation period. A work-related restricted license may also be available.

Drivers under 18 years of age are not eligible for IID restricted driving privileges.

Hawaii's Underage DUI/OVUII Laws

In Hawaii, drivers who are under 21 years of age are prohibited from having any measurable amount of alcohol in their system. The penalties for a conviction depend on the number or prior offenses within the last five years.

An underage DUI conviction will generally result in less jail and fees than a standard DUI, but often more rehabilitative requirements. Here are the consequences of a first, second, and third offense:

  • First offense. Ten hours of substance abuse counseling, 180-day license revocation, up to 36 hours of community service, and $150 to $500 in fines.
  • Second offense. Up to 50 hours of community service, $300 to $1,000 in fines, and a one-year license revocation.
  • Third offense. Up to 100 hours of community service, $300 to $1,000 in fines, and a two-year license revocation.

Like other drivers, underage motorists are subject to the state's implied consent law and will face license suspension for unlawful refusals.

Talk with a Hawaii DUI Lawyer

If you've been arrested for driving while under the influence in Hawaii, you should get in contact with a qualified DUI attorney in your area. An experienced DUI lawyer can help you understand how the law applies in your case and advise you on how best to handle your situation.

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