In new legislative session, leaders seek changes in penalties for COVID violations

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Updated: Jan. 19, 2021 at 9:59 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - State leaders intend to change the penalty for those who violate COVID emergency orders as a new legislative session begins on Wednesday.

State Senator Karl Rhoads predicts changes to the law regarding emergency orders could be implemented by the end of February.

He said the plan is to offer prosecutors other options, so they won’t have to charge a misdemeanor for every violation.

“So what we’re hoping to do is have some retroactive aspect to it so that the people who were charged with the full misdemeanor, the prosecutors can roll that back to something lesser in many cases, probably like a traffic infraction,” said Rhoades.

The state senator said if a similar law had been in place six months ago, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams would have just paid a ticket and not charged with a misdemeanor.

“We need to get the message out to people through a fine or something that’s easier to administer that you really can’t do that right now,” said Rhoads. “But at the same time, just not overwhelm the court system.”

Newly elected Honolulu Prosecutor Steve Alm said there’s still thousands of cases related to COVID citations that need to be processed.

On Tuesday, Alm decided to dismiss the charges against Adams.

He said he wants to focus on more serious COVID cases.

“And based on the whole totality, is I decided, further prosecution in this case would not achieve the goal of achieving justice,” said Alm.

The prosecutor said they will not be dismissing all emergency order cases and are reviewing them individually.

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