A suspected car thief was arrested over the weekend while inside a stolen car but Honolulu police officers were forced to let him walk away scot-free.
It’s puzzling for both the victim as well as some legal experts. The victim says his car was stolen over the weekend and he later found out that the suspect hit another car and left the scene.
Police arrested him the following day, but prosecutors declined to charge him with any crime because they say there wasn’t enough evidence.
But former prosecutor Peter Carlisle said that there’s enough there to at least let a judge or jury decide.
“You do not have to have videotape of the guy driving the car,” he said. “You don’t have to have the person behind the wheel with the engine revving. All you have to do is exert authorized control of the vehicle.”
Carlisle adds that the fact that police officers made an arrest shows there was probable cause. “I don’t understand it, and if there isn’t some fact that I’m unaware of, this sounds untenable. Why would you not pursue a case like that? It’s not like we want people to steal other people’s cars.”
In the meantime, the victim — who did not want to be identified — showed us his car with the front passenger side still damaged. He says someone broke into his house on Saturday and stole his wallet, computer, car keys and his car. Police told him that the suspect also hit another car.
“The officer at the scene told me that the suspect was driving around the local police department there, taunting the police that he had a gun. He was apprehended and released the following Tuesday.”
Specifically, released with no charges.
“I was at a loss for words,” the victim said. “I don’t know what to think at this point. I tried to contact the prosecutor’s office and I had no response. They won’t return my phone calls.”
So we reached out to the prosecutor’s office and a spokesman said there was not enough evidence. He added that there were no witnesses or surveillance video and no fingerprints to implicate the suspect, plus there are no witnesses who can identify the suspect as the driver in the hit-and-run incident.
Carlisle said if the victim said he didn’t give permission for the suspect to drive the car, and police caught him inside the car, that should be enough to prosecute.
The victim pointed out that even the police officers at the scene seem frustrated because they told him to call KHON2 to see if something could be done about it.
“I think everybody should want him prosecuted, because I’m sure he’s out there doing the same thing, and he’s going to keep doing it as long as he gets released. He has nothing to lose.”
We asked HPD how many arrests officers made last year for car thefts and we were told 3,871. We also asked the prosecutor’s office how many of those ended in charges and the spokesman said he didn’t know.