Protecting yourself and understanding your rights after a DUI accident in Hawaii
Uncover the essentials of Hawaii's drunk driving laws, penalties, and the impact on personal injury lawsuits. Learn how to spot a drunk driver and protect your rights.
Imagine, one moment, you’re driving home after a long day, and the next, you’re blindsided by a drunk driver, altering your life forever.
Drunk driving is a serious issue that affects thousands of people in the United States every year. Legislatures in Hawaii passed strict laws to combat drunk driving and ensure the safety of all road users. If you or a loved one has been injured in a drunk driving car accident, understanding Hawaii’s drunk driving laws and how they may impact a personal injury lawsuit is critical.
In this article, we’ll provide you with reliable legal information about Hawaii’s drunk driving laws and offer guidance on when to seek the help of a personal injury attorney.
Drunk driving laws in Hawaii
The phrase “driving under the influence (DUI)” refers to the act of operating a motor vehicle while affected by alcohol or drugs (including prescription medication).
Pursuant to Hawaii Revised Statutes § 291E-61, there are two types of DUI charges in Hawaii:
- Administrative per se DUIs
- Impairment DUIs
You can be charged with an administrative per se DUI if the results of your breath or blood test show any of the following:
|Driver||Blood-alcohol content (BAC)|
|Adults (21 and older)||0.08%|
|Minors (under 21)||0.02%|
You can be charged with an impairment DUI even if your BAC is less than the legal limit if you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs in an amount “sufficient to impair [your] normal mental faculties.”
Evidence that may be used to support a decision that you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs in an amount sufficient to impair your normal mental faculties includes:
- Erratic driving (e.g., weaving or drifting)
- Stopping too short or too abruptly
- Driving too slow
- Driving without headlights at night
- Poor performance on a field sobriety test
- Slurred speech
- Odd behavior
- An admission of being impaired
|The effects of blood alcohol concentration (BAC)|
|BAC||Typical effects||Predictable effects on driving|
|.02||Some loss of judgment, relaxation, slight body warmth, altered mood||A decline in visual functions (rapid tracking of a moving target) and a decline in the ability to perform 2 tasks at the same time|
|.05||Exaggerated movement, some loss of small-muscle control (e.g., focusing your eyes), impaired judgment, lowered alertness, the release of inhibition||Reduced coordination, reduced ability to track moving objects, difficulty steering, reduced response to emergency driving situation|
|.08||Muscle coordination becomes poor (e.g., balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing), harder to detect danger; judgment, self-control, reasoning, and memory are impaired||Concentration, short-term memory loss, speed control, reduced information processing capability (e.g., signal detection, visual search), impaired perception|
|.10||Clear deterioration of reaction time and control, slurred speech, poor coordination, and slowed thinking||Reduced ability to maintain lane position and brake appropriately|
|.15||Far less muscle control than normal, vomiting may occur (unless this level is reached slowly or a person has developed a tolerance for alcohol), major loss of balance||Substantial impairment in vehicle control, attention to driving task, and in necessary visual and auditory information processing|
|Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration|
Penalties for driving under the influence in Hawaii
|Hawaii DUI penalties|
|First offense||$250-$1,000||Up to 5 days||1 year||Mandatory alcohol education program; community service up to 72 hours|
|Second offense||$1,000-$3,000||5-30 days||18 months to 2 years||Community service up to 240 hours; Ignition Interlock Device (IID) installation|
|Third offense||$2,000-$5,000||2-4 years||2-4 years||Vehicle forfeiture; IID installation|
It’s important to note that these penalties may increase if there are aggravating factors such as a high BAC level, causing injury or death, or having a minor passenger in the vehicle.
How Does Drunk Driving Impact a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
If you've been injured in a drunk driving accident, the at-fault driver's DUI conviction can significantly impact your personal injury lawsuit. The driver's negligence is easier to prove when they have violated the law by driving under the influence. This can lead to a higher likelihood of receiving compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.
In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded in drunk driving accidents. Punitive damages aim to punish the at-fault driver for their reckless behavior and serve as a deterrent to others.
Learn more about the types of compensation available in a drunk driving case.
How to Spot a Drunk Driver
Recognizing the signs of a drunk driver can help you avoid a potentially dangerous situation. Some common indicators of a drunk driver include:
- Swerving or weaving in and out of lanes
- Excessive speeding or driving too slowly
- Tailgating or following too closely
- Delayed reaction to traffic signals
- Erratic braking or accelerating
- Driving with headlights off at night
- Making wide turns or drifting across lanes
If you suspect a driver is intoxicated, maintain a safe distance from their vehicle and call 911 to report the situation. Provide the dispatcher with the vehicle's description, license plate number, and location. Remember, your vigilance could potentially save lives.
A tragic drunk driving accident occurred in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, leading to criminal convictions. On September 10, 2016, a Toyota 4Runner driven by 32-year-old Nicholas Abarcar veered off the road and struck a wall, resulting in the death of his 16-year-old passenger, Kaulana Werner.
Nicholas was found to have a BAC of 0.239 percent at the time of the crash, nearly three times the legal limit.
Nicholas was charged with first-degree negligent homicide, DUI, and other offenses. He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 18 months in jail and 10 years of probation.
Dram Shop Laws in Hawaii
Dram shop laws hold establishments that serve alcohol, such as bars and restaurants, liable for any injuries or damages caused by an intoxicated patron they served.
Hawaii doesn’t have a specific dram shop statute; rather, the state’s dram shop laws were established by the courts.
In Hawaii, a third party can hold an establishment liable if:
- The establishment served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated individual or a minor, and
- The act led to the injury or damage sustained by a third party.
Here’s an example:
John, a 25-year-old man, arrives at a bustling sports bar in downtown Honolulu to watch a University of Hawaii football game. Over the course of the evening, John consumes several alcoholic beverages, becoming visibly intoxicated. The bartender notices John's slurred speech and unsteady balance but continues to serve him drinks.
After the game, John leaves the bar and gets into his car. As he drives home, his impaired judgment leads him to run a red light at a busy intersection, crashing into another vehicle driven by Emily, a 30-year-old nurse, on her way home from work. Emily sustains severe injuries as a result of the accident, including a broken arm and a traumatic brain injury that requires extensive rehabilitation.
Emily decides to file a personal injury lawsuit against John for his negligence in driving under the influence. However, Emily’s attorney advises her to also consider suing the sports bar under Hawaii's dram shop law. The attorney argues that the bar may be held liable for Emily’s injuries because they served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated John, which directly led to the accident and Emily’s subsequent injuries.
In this hypothetical scenario, Emily could potentially recover damages from both John and the sports bar, holding both parties accountable for their roles in the devastating accident.
5 FAQs about Drunk Driving in Hawaii
Hopefully, we’ve answered all of your questions about Hawaii DUI laws, but in case we haven’t, here are some additional answers to common questions:
The legal drinking age in Hawaii is 21 years old.
Yes, you can still be charged with a DUI even if your BAC is below the legal limit. If law enforcement officers have reason to believe that your driving is impaired due to alcohol or drugs, you can be charged with a DUI.
First, ensure your safety and the safety of others involved. Call 911 to report the accident and request medical assistance if needed. Once it’s safe to do so, gather evidence, such as photographs of the scene and contact information for witnesses. Finally, consult with a personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options.
Yes, you can refuse a breathalyzer test, but this will result in a minimum 2-year suspension of your driver’s license even if you’re not drunk.
Generally, passengers are not held liable for drunk driving accidents. However, if the passenger knowingly allowed an intoxicated person to drive, they could potentially face legal consequences.
Understanding Hawaii's drunk driving laws is essential for those who have been injured in an accident involving an intoxicated driver. These laws can significantly impact a personal injury lawsuit, making it important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney when seeking compensation for your injuries.