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City dismisses DUI cases

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About a dozen driving-under-the-influence arrests at roadblocks have been dismissed in court due to an investigation involving two Honolulu police sergeants in the Traffic Services Division.

Police spokeswoman Carolyn Sluyter confirmed that two sergeants in the division have been reassigned pending an internal investigation and that the men have 19 and 16 1/2 years of service, respectively. She declined to discuss the details of the investigation.

Jim Fulton, an executive assistant to city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle, said that "the case was referred to our offices and is under investigation." He also declined to give details.

Fulton confirmed that there has been some impact as a result of the case.

"Based on the pending investigation, and as a precaution, we have dismissed without prejudice about a dozen DUI (driving under the influence) cases," he said. Because they were dismissed without prejudice, "these cases may be refiled at a later date."

Several DUI lawyers said that as a result of the reassignments, the two have not made court appearances on DUI cases. As a result, some cases have been dismissed, they said.

Criminal defense lawyer Jon Burge said he was preparing for a DUI case and heard that the sergeants in the case were not working anymore.

He asked the judge to order the prosecutors to check into the matter because he heard the officers would not be available for the case.

"It was pretty well known within the community," he said.

The prosecutors asked to dismiss the case without prejudice, allowing them to refile the case at a later time, but the judge ordered them to get more information.

Three weeks later (on Tuesday), the prosecutors came back to court and said they had no information on what was happening with the officers. They requested the case be dismissed without prejudice, but the judge threw the case out, Burge said.

Lawyer Paul Cunney, who also deals with a large number of DUI cases, estimated that perhaps seven out of 200 of his current DUI cases might be affected by the reassignments. About one or two of his cases have actually been dismissed, he said.

Cunney does not think this is a big problem, noting that only about 10 percent to 15 percent of DUI arrests happen at checkpoints. "It’s probably closer to 10 percent," he said.

He also praised police leaders for taking control of the situation and "nipping it in bud."

The public should not be alarmed, he said.

Fulton declined to say whether additional DUI cases may be dismissed for the same reasons.

"All we can comment on are the individual cases we have dismissed at this point in time," he said.

Defense lawyer Earle Partington said he has not had any cases involving the two sergeants recently, but had advice for anyone accused of DUI who does. "Anyone who had cases involved with these officers should contact an attorney," he said.

Star-Advertiser reporter Robert Shikina contributed to this report.

 

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