Hundreds have accepted DUI plea deals aimed at easing court backlog

Hundreds have accepted DUI plea deals aimed at easing court backlog
HNN File

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - An unprecedented DUI plea deal program aimed at easing the COVID-related court backlog is being extended another month.

The city Prosecutor’s Office identified 900 defendants who qualified.

In February alone, nearly half have already accepted the offer that could wipe the DUI off their record.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving was consulted on the plan and agreed this was necessary because of the shutdowns that stopped court proceedings.

“Certainly clears the congestion and I think that’s a good thing. It’s a reasonable option,” said Kurt Kendro, of the MADD Public Policy Committee.

Not only were the cases clogging the courts, it’s likely defendants could have beaten the charges due to delays.

“If all of those cases went to trial, the cases would not be tried in the time required by law, which means a lot of the cases could possibly be dismissed,” said Florence Nakakuni, of the city Prosecutor’s Office. “This is the compromise to deal with the backlog.”

The unusual deal means the driver pays about $1,000 in fines or completes community service.

There are other fines and then another $1,400 for an interlock device for one year. Substance abuse or driving courses are also included.

Only first-time DUI offenders qualify and attorney Jonathan Burge said this program allows the government to focus on repeat offenders instead.

Burge has 70 clients who already took the deal and believes more will follow now that the window has been extended to April 2.

The Prosecutor’s Office and MADD said the program will not become a permanent solution to court backlogs. This was strictly done because of COVID-19, they said.

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