Hawaii Domestic Violence Laws

Learn how Hawaii defines and penalizes acts of domestic abuse.

By , Attorney · Georgia State University College of Law
Updated by Rebecca Pirius, Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated 7/11/2024

Hawaii makes it illegal to abuse a family or household member. The abuser can face arrest, criminal charges, jail time, and firearm restrictions. In addition to providing criminal penalties for the abuser, Hawaii provides a system where a victim of domestic abuse may obtain a court-issued protective order. The law also places specific duties on law enforcement officers when investigating allegations of domestic abuse. Read on to learn how Hawaii's laws address domestic violence.

What Is Domestic Abuse in Hawaii?

In Hawaii, the law defines "domestic abuse" as any of the following acts committed by or against a family or household member: physical harm, bodily injury, assault, threats of harm, extreme psychological abuse, coercive control, or malicious property damage.

Hawaii defines a family or household member as:

  • current and former spouses or reciprocal beneficiaries
  • persons currently or formerly in a dating relationship
  • persons who have a child in common
  • parents and children
  • people related by blood, and
  • people who currently or formerly lived together in the same home (unless they are adult roommates who only share economic or contractual obligations).

A family or household member experiencing domestic abuse may ask the court for a domestic violence order of protection. If granted, the order prohibits the abusing party from physically abusing, threatening, or having contact with the protected party. A violation of this order is a crime. (More on penalties below.)

(Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 586-1, 586-3, 586-4, 586-11 (2024).)

Is Domestic Violence a Crime in Hawaii?

Yes, Hawaii has a crime that specifically prohibits acts of domestic violence—it's referred to as "abuse of a family or household member." This law prohibits acts of physical abuse, offensive contact, strangulation, and coercive control. It provides increasing penalties for repeat domestic violence offenses, as well as mandatory minimum sentences. The law also imposes duties on police officers responding to domestic calls.

Depending on the facts of the case, a prosecutor might file additional or more serious charges. For example, a defendant may face first- or second-degree assault charges if the abuse results in serious or substantial bodily injuries (like broken bones, gunshot wounds, or internal bleeding). Other common domestic violence charges include manslaughter, harassment, stalking, unlawful imprisonment, and violation of an order of protection.

(Haw. Rev. Stat. § 709-906 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Abuse of a Family or Household Member in Hawaii?

Abuse of a family or household member carries penalties ranging from a petty misdemeanor to a class C felony.

Abuse of a Family or Household Member: Petty Misdemeanors

It's a petty misdemeanor for a defendant to:

  • knowingly strike, shove, or kick a family or household member
  • make offensive physical contact with a family or household member (such as hair pulling or grabbing their arm), or
  • exercise coercive control over a family or household member.

Coercive control involves a pattern of threatening, humiliating, or intimidating acts used to harm, punish, or frighten another. It can also include monitoring a person's movements or internet use, controlling their finances, name-calling, and isolating them from outside support.

Petty misdemeanors carry a maximum penalty of 30 days of jail time and a $1,000 fine.

Abuse of a Family or Household Member: Misdemeanors

Physical abuse of a family or household member carries misdemeanor penalties for first and second convictions. Physical abuse involves maltreatment that causes bodily injury or pain or damage to the body. Examples of physical abuse could include acts of punching or kicking that result in bruises, abrasions, cuts, or broken bones. It can also include hitting someone with a beer bottle, bat, belt, or other object resulting in injuries or pain.

The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor is one year of jail time and a $2,000 fine. This offense also comes with minimum penalties. A first offense is punished by a minimum of 48 hours in jail. A defendant who commits a second domestic abuse offense within a year of the first conviction must serve a minimum of 30 days in jail.

Abuse of a Family or Household Member: Class C Felonies

Class C felony penalties apply to repeat offenders, abuse involving strangulation, and abuse in the presence of a child. Class C felonies may be punished by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Repeat offenders. Third or subsequent offenses occurring within two years of the prior offense are class C felonies.

Strangulation. A person commits strangulation by impeding another's normal breathing or blood circulation by applying pressure to their throat, neck, or chest or blocking the nose and mouth. A prosecutor can charge this class C felony even if injuries are not visible.

Presence of a child. Domestic abuse committed within the sight or hearing of a child younger than 14 is also a class C felony. The child must also be a family or household member.

(Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 586-1, 706-640, 706-660, 706-663, 709-906 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Violating an Order of Protection in Hawaii?

A defendant who knowingly violates an order of protection will face misdemeanor charges. Different penalties apply depending on whether the violation involved abuse or not. Examples of violations that don't involve abuse might be contact violations or failure to pay child support. Certain violations carry mandatory minimum jail sentences and fines.

For instance, a judge can order up to 48 hours of jail time and a $150 fine for a first violation that doesn't involve abuse. If abuse occurred, the judge must sentence the defendant to a minimum of 48 hours and up to a year of jail time, plus a fine between $150 and $500. Repeat convictions involving the same order of protection have mandatory minimum jail sentences of 48 hours or 30 days and fines of $250 to $1,000. The exact penalty depends on whether either or both violations involved abuse. Any jail time ordered must be served immediately.

The law also requires convicted defendants to complete a domestic violence intervention or anger management course.

(Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 586-4, 586-11 (2024).)

What Are Law Enforcement's Duties in Hawaii Domestic Abuse Cases?

When investigating allegations of domestic abuse, law enforcement officers have certain obligations that they must fulfill. Hawaii law also specifies powers that an officer may or must exercise in domestic abuse investigations. For example, officers may arrest without a warrant any person whom the officers have reasonable grounds to believe is abusing or has abused a family or household member.

Officers may also order the suspect to leave the home for two business days, during which time the suspect may not contact the victim. If the suspect refuses to leave, or if the suspect contacts the victim during the "cooling off" period, an officer must arrest the suspect.

The law requires officers to complete a written report in all domestic violence investigations. They must also seize any firearms and ammunition believed to be used or threatened in the crime.

(Haw. Rev. Stat. § 709-906 (2024).)

What Firearm Restrictions Apply in Domestic Abuse Cases in Hawaii?

Hawaii law prohibits the possession of firearms and ammunition by certain individuals, including:

  • anyone facing charges for, or convicted of, a felony or a crime of violence
  • anyone subject to an order of protection (while the order is in effect), and
  • anyone convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence crime (as defined in federal law).

State violations carry misdemeanor and felony penalties. A person could also face federal charges.

(Haw. Rev. Stat. § 134-7 (2024); 18 U.S.C. § 922 (2024).)

Consult an Attorney

If you're accused of committing domestic abuse or served with an order of protection, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. A lawyer can help you understand what's at stake and protect your rights.

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