Proposal seeks harsher penalties for damage to items of cultural significance

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Damage done to Iolani Palace. Graffiti on the Prince Kuhio statue. Vandals slashing the rigging on canoes at Maunalua Bay.

These crimes are all heartbreaking to see.

Now, some state lawmakers want to increase the penalty for such crimes if “the person intentionally or knowingly damages property holding cultural or historical significance to Native Hawaiians.”

Right now, for a crime to be considered first-degree criminal property damage, you’d have to cause at least $20,000 worth of damage to most things.

Senate Bill 2863 aims to lower the threshold to only $1,500 for property significant to Native Hawaiians. It’s a class B felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Second-degree CPD is a class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. Currently, the threshold is $1,500, but the bill aims to lower it to $500 for things with Native Hawaiian significance.

CPD in the third degree is a misdemeanor with a threshold of $500, which the bill aims to lower to $100.

The state public defender’s office opposes the bill.

“The definition what constitutes cultural or historical significance to Native Hawaiians is vague and ambiguous,” the office stated in written testimony. “The vandalism of the canoes in Hawaii Kai was reprehensible and costly. But do these specific canoes hold a cultural or historical significance to Native Hawaiians?”

The state attorney general’s office also opposes the bill, also citing concerns about the definition being vague.

SB2863 is scheduled to go before the Senate Judiciary committee on Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 9:30 a.m. in conference room 16.

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