In Hawaii, a person convicted of a felony faces prison time of more than one year and up to life. Hawaii has a fairly unique sentencing and parole system in which the paroling authority (rather than the sentencing judge) will largely determine how long the offender will remain behind bars.
This article will discuss felony sentencing and parole in Hawaii. For information on misdemeanors, check out Hawaii Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences.
Hawaii uses five felony classifications. Based on these classifications, the sentencing judge hands down one of five maximum prison sentences:
Maximum fine amounts vary. Unless an individual crime sets a specific amount, the judge may order a fine equal to double the offender's monetary gain from the crime or up to the maximum amount set for each classification, which ranges from $10,000 to $50,000.
(Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 704-640, 706-656, 706-657, 706-659, 706-660 (2023).)
Some felonies carry mandatory minimum sentence terms in addition to the maximum. Mandatory minimums apply to felonies involving firearms, vulnerable victims, and drug trafficking crimes, to name a few.
(Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 706-660.1, 706-660.2 (2023).)
Hawaii's laws also impose enhanced sentences (called extended terms) for certain hate crimes, hit-and-run offenses, persistent felony offenders, and repeat violent and sexual offenders. If an extended term applies, the judge must order a maximum term that is one level higher than for the current offense (for example, a class B felony would bump up to a class A felony).
(Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 706-661, 706-662 (2023).)
Below are some examples of felony offenses in Hawaii by class or level:
When looking at Hawaii's Penal Code, some crimes simply state a felony classification. Others refer to a special sentencing section of the law.
When imposing a felony sentence, judges can order one or more of the following:
Generally, a judge will hand down a sentence that includes a term of imprisonment and then either "execute or stay" the prison sentence. Executing the sentence means the offender will go to prison. Staying a sentence means the judge will suspend the prison sentence and give the offender a chance to serve the sentence in the community on probation. Only certain offenders are eligible for probation. For instance, Hawaii's laws generally prohibit probation for class A felonies, repeat offenders, and felony firearm offenders.
(Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 706-605, 706-620 (2023).)
When a judge stays a prison sentence, the judge conditions the stay (or suspension) on the offender's agreement to abide by probation terms. Basically, the prison sentence hangs over the offender's head as an incentive to comply with probation.
Probation conditions might include remaining crime-free, serving a jail sentence, completing community service hours, abstaining from alcohol or drugs, maintaining employment, attending school, treatment or counseling, or being placed on electronic monitoring or home confinement.
Felony probation can last 4 to 10 years depending on the offense level. If the offender successfully completes probation, the sentence is also complete. A judge may grant early discharge from probation for good behavior. Violations of probation, however, can result in additional probation conditions or revocation. Upon revoking probation, the judge ends the stay and executes the sentence (that is, imposes the original prison term).
(Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 706-623, 706-624, 706-625 (2023).)
If the judge orders the sentence executed (either at the initial sentencing or after revoking probation), the offender will start serving the prison sentence. The amount of time the offender spends in prison will depend on the maximum sentence imposed by the judge, eligibility for parole, and decisions of the parole authority.
Hawaii's parole authority plays a substantial role in felony sentencing. In many cases, this board will determine an inmate's earliest possible parole date, whether to grant, defer, or deny parole release, and whether to discharge or revoke parole.
(Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 706-669, 706-670, 706-670.5 (2023).)
If you're charged with a felony, contact a criminal defense lawyer right away. Felonies carry stiff penalties in Hawaii, and even if you don't spend much time behind bars, a felony record can follow you forever. A lawyer can help you understand the criminal justice process, evaluate your options, defend your rights, and explain the consequences of a conviction.