Last week, Hawaii News Now broke the story about the possibility of criminal penalties for people who repeatedly defy building codes with illegal structures, or illegal businesses like outlaw vacation rentals.
We urge the Caldwell administration and city Prosecutors to take this idea seriously.
It was kind of a surprise to learn that criminal penalties, which could lead to jail time in extreme cases, were always an option under the law but no one can remember the last time they were used.
It's been clear with the proliferation of monster homes and continued defiance by vacation rental owners that the system of fines and negotiation hasn't worked on the worst violators.
The city has repeatedly said the goal of its enforcement program is to bring owners into compliance and not be punitive – but for some people, punishment and the threat of jail is the only thing that will work.
City and state lawmakers should also look at strengthening the penalties and clarifying which kinds of violations deserve criminal sanctions. For some of the most violations, when neighborhoods have been irreparably harmed, a felony conviction would be appropriate.
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