New proposal seeks to change penalties for those who break emergency orders

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — A Honolulu City Council member is calling for a change in penalties for those who break the emergency orders.

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Currently, anyone who is caught violating the Governor David Ige’s emergency orders will either receive a warning, or be charged with a criminal misdemeanor, which comes with a fine of up to $5,000 dollars, up to a year in jail time or both.

Since the pandemic began, Honolulu police have handed down more than 60,000 citations for violating emergency orders, but only a small percentage have been convicted.

“We are advising mostly warnings based on the fact that … Basically, the agreement seems to be that the citations being a misdemeanor is not something that anybody wants to follow through with,” Honolulu Police Department Chief Susan Ballard told the Police Commission at their meeting on Wednesday.

“We just don’t see how issuing a citation to someone in the community knowing that nothing’s going to be done with it … I mean it just doesn’t seem right.”

Chief Susan Ballard, Honolulu Police Department

However, Honolulu City Council Member Ron Menor said, the citations don’t seem to be working.

“The prosecutors and courts may be reluctant to impose criminal penalties that seem disproportionately severe in relation to the violation,” said Ron Menor, Honolulu City Council member.

Menor is asking Governor Ige and state legislators to hold a special session to change the penalties and consider imposing a fine instead.

“If the legislature were to allow for civil fines to be imposed, that would be similar to traffic citations that are issued, in which, the individual can either pay the fine or if they want to contest it they can go to court, but that the civil process is so much more expeditious and not as time consuming as the criminal process,” said Menor.

He said the new penalties and fines would be up to the state legislature, but a change needs to be made as soon as possible.

“Effective enforcement is going to be especially important because of the anticipated surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, due to the upcoming holiday gatherings and the increasing reports of violations of the emergency orders,” said Menor.

To read the full proposal, you can visit the Honolulu City Council’s website.

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