Appealing a Sentence Reduction in Hawaii Criminal Cases


Appealing a Sentence Reduction in Hawaii Criminal Cases

Getting your sentence reduced in a criminal case can be a huge relief. But what if the prosecution appeals the reduction, and tries to get your original sentence reinstated? This article will walk you through the basics of understanding and fighting a sentence reduction appeal in Hawaii.

How Sentence Reductions Happen in Hawaii

There’s a few main ways a judge can reduce someone’s sentence after they’ve already been convicted and sentenced:

  • Rule 35 Motion – This allows a judge to reduce a sentence if they feel it was too harsh.
  • Rule 40 Petition – This allows a judge to vacate or modify a sentence if it was illegal or improperly imposed.
  • Commutation by the Governor – The governor has the power to shorten a prison sentence.

Judges don’t hand out sentence reductions lightly. There has to be a very good reason, like an illegal sentence or clear injustice. But when they do, it can lower a sentence by months or even years. This gives someone a chance to rebuild their life sooner.

The Appeal Process in Hawaii

Unfortunately, just because a judge reduces your sentence doesn’t mean the matter is settled. The prosecution can file an appeal to challenge the reduction. Here’s how the process works:

  1. The prosecution files a Notice of Appeal within 30 days of the sentence being reduced.
  2. The appeal gets sent to the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA). This court reviews the case to see if the lower court made any legal errors.
  3. Oral arguments may be scheduled, where attorneys from both sides make their case in person to the appeals judges.
  4. The ICA issues a written decision on the appeal. If they find errors, they can reverse the sentence reduction entirely or partially.
  5. The losing side can try to appeal the ICA’s decision to the Hawaii Supreme Court. But the supreme court can choose whether to accept the appeal or not.

As you can see, it could take months or longer for an appeal to get resolved. And there’s no guarantee the sentence reduction will be upheld. So it’s crucial to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer fighting to protect your interests every step of the way.

Strategies For Fighting a Sentence Reduction Appeal in Hawaii

So the prosecution has appealed your sentence reduction in Hawaii. What can you do to maximize the chances of keeping that reduction intact? Here are some of the most effective strategies:

Argue the Original Sentence Was Illegal

If your sentence reduction was granted through a Rule 40 petition, a key strategy is to argue the original sentence was illegal. Things like improper calculation of sentencing guidelines, failure to properly credit time served, or constitutional violations could make a sentence illegal and ripe for reduction. Your lawyer can highlight all the ways the original sentence was flawed to justify upholding the reduction.

Show the Trial Court Acted Within its Discretion

Hawaii judges have wide discretion to reduce sentences if they feel a punishment is unjustly harsh. So it’s important to show the trial judge carefully considered the facts and properly exercised their authority. Pointing to mitigating factors, remorse, rehabilitation and other circumstances can help justify the judge’s decision.

File a Cross-Appeal on Any Issues You Lost

If the judge only reduced your sentence partially, your lawyer can file a cross-appeal to challenge the parts of your sentence that weren’t reduced. This allows you to put alternative arguments before the appeals court in case they disagree with the reduction granted by the lower court.

Highlight Procedural Errors by the Prosecution

Scour the record for any procedural mistakes made by the prosecution, like missing deadlines or filing incomplete paperwork. Procedural errors could result in the appeal being dismissed entirely. Your lawyer can emphasize any sloppy mistakes that show the appeal itself is flawed.