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COVID-19 delays drunken driving trial of state Rep. Sharon Har

  • Sharon Har

    Sharon Har

Six months after her arrest on a drunken driving charge, state Rep. Sharon Har’s trial that had been scheduled to start Monday has been rescheduled for October because of COVID- 19 court restrictions — two days before Har likely will challenge a separate preliminary ruling to suspend her driver’s license for two years.

As a lawmaker, Har (D, Kapolei-Makakilo) helped increase the original one-year license revocation to the two years she now faces for refusing to take a breath or blood test that would have determined her blood alcohol content after Honolulu police officers arrested her the night of Feb. 22.

Officers found her alone in her 2019 Mercedes-Benz pointed in the head-on direction of one-way traffic traveling on busy South Beretania Street at Piikoi Street. She also was charged with driving without motor vehicle insurance.

Har, an attorney, also faces the possibility of discipline from the Hawaii Bar Association if she’s convicted. And a separate special House committee of Har’s legislative peers has been formed and is awaiting the outcome of her trial to consider any potential House sanctions.

Har’s new Circuit Court date is scheduled for Oct. 13. But an Oct. 6 pretrial conference — and COVID-19 conditions at the time — could cause further delays.

Two days later — on Oct. 15 — Har has a separate hearing scheduled before the Administrative Driver’s License Revocation Office, which has preliminarily revoked her license for two years. Har is allowed to drive with an ignition interlock device, which will not allow a vehicle to start until a user’s blood alcohol content is measured.

Har also helped create Hawaii’s interlock ignition requirements for drunken drivers after a driver with two prior drunken driving cases — and a pending third case — slammed into her in 2007, totaling Har’s Mercedes and sending her to The Queen’s Medical Center.

In a statement following her arrest, Har said that she had been taking prescription cough medication with codeine for an upper respiratory illness that had lasted several weeks.

“On Feb. 22, 2021, after a late evening at work, I had a beer with my dinner,” she wrote. “This, in conjunction with my medication, contributed to my impaired driving.

“I am extremely sorry for not anticipating the effect of this combination on my driving,” she said. “I deeply apologize to my constituents, friends, family and colleagues, and to the public for this failure on my part.”

Har’s attorney, Howard Luke, declined to outline any arguments he might make at trial in her defense.

As for Har’s license revocation, Luke said “nothing’s been finalized yet on the revocation. They sustained the revocation preliminarily but you can appeal that.”

Prominent drunken driving defense attorney Patrick McPherson worked with Har and the Hawaii chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving to stiffen Hawaii’s penalties for drunken driving and said that she is looking at thousands of dollars in attorney fees, penalties and costs.

If her driver’s license is ultimately revoked, Har also would have to retake her written and driving tests, submit to an alcohol assessment and undergo any treatment required by the assessor in order to get her license reinstated, McPherson said.

“There are fines and fees and your insurance goes up,” McPherson said. “A DUI can cost you $10,000 easily.”

Until anything is settled, McPherson said, Har is free to drive on a temporary interlock driver’s permit.

“She can legally drive 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as long as she uses the interlock,” he said.

On Monday, HPD announced that officers will conduct impaired-driver checkpoints at unannounced times and locations from Wednesday through Oct. 31 — and every week through September 2022 as part of the federal “52/12” sobriety checkpoint program.

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