State v. Ruggiero

Decision Date05 June 2007
Docket NumberNo. 26940.,26940.
Citation160 P.3d 703
PartiesSTATE of Hawai`i, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Adam RUGGIERO, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtHawaii Supreme Court

Arleen Y. Watanabe, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, on the briefs, for the plaintiff-appellee State of Hawai`i.

Deborah L. Kim and Marcus L. Landsberg IV, Deputy Public Defenders, on the briefs, for the defendant-appellant Adam Ruggiero.

LEVINSON, J., with whom DUFFY, J. joins; NAKAYAMA, J., Concurring and Dissenting, with whom MOON, C.J., joins; and ACOBA, J., Concurring and Dissenting Separately.

Opinion by LEVINSON, J.

The defendant-appellant Adam Ruggiero appeals from the September 30, 2004 judgment and sentence of the district court of the second circuit, the Honorable Douglas H. Ige presiding, convicting him of operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant [hereinafter, "DUI"], in violation of Hawai`i Revised Statutes (HRS) § 291E-61 (Supp.2003), see infra note 10.

On appeal, Ruggiero asserts that the district court erred in sentencing him as a repeat offender, pursuant to HRS § 291E-61(b) and (c), see infra note 10, inasmuch as nine days after his DUI arrest but prior to his conviction and sentencing, this court, in summary disposition order (SDO) No. 25671 (March 19, 2004) [hereinafter, "SDO No. 25671"], reversed his previous January 29, 2003 DUI conviction, thereby, Ruggiero alleges, removing the basis for the enhanced penalty.

For the reasons discussed infra in section III, we hold that the language set forth in HRS § 291E-61(c), see infra note 10, manifests a clear legislative intent to create a status offense in HRS § 291E-61 and, therefore, that it was not a violation of Ruggiero's due process rights, guaranteed by section 1 of the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution1 and article I, section 5 of the Hawai`i Constitution2 to sentence him as a second-time offender on the basis of a prior conviction that was valid at the time of his arrest for the present offense.

However, in keeping with the due process protections articulated in State v. Cummings, 101 Hawai`i 139, 142-43, 63 P.3d 1109, 1112-13 (2003), State v. Israel, 78 Hawai`i 66, 73, 890 P.2d 303, 310 (1995), and State v. Schroeder, 76 Hawai`i 517, 525, 880 P.2d 192, 200 (1994), see infra section III.C.5, in order for his conviction and sentencing as a second-time offender to be valid, Ruggiero's prior conviction, as an essential element of the offense charged, had to be alleged in the complaint and proven beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. Insofar as the complaint in the present matter failed to allege Ruggiero's prior conviction, it was insufficient to charge Ruggiero with a violation of HRS § 291E-61(a) and (b)(2) as a second-time offender. We therefore vacate his conviction of and sentence for driving under the influence for the second time within a five-year period, in violation of HRS § 291E-61(a) and (b)(2) and remand to the district court for the entry of a judgment of conviction for driving under the influence of an intoxicant with no prior offenses, in violation of HRS § 291E-61(a) and (b)(1), see infra note 10, and sentencing in accordance therewith. State v. Elliott, 77 Hawai`i 309, 313, 884 P.2d 372, 376 (1994). We affirm the district court's judgment with respect to Ruggiero's convictions of the infractions alleged in Counts II, III, and IV of the complaint, none of which Ruggiero appealed, see infra note 3.


On March 10, 2004 — while his appeal of a January 29, 2003 conviction for operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant, in violation of HRS § 291E-61(a)(1) (Supp. 2002), was pending before this court — Ruggiero was again arrested for DUI. Nine days later, on March 19, 2004, we reversed the January 29, 2003 conviction on the grounds that the prosecution failed to prove an essential element of the offense.

Following from the March 10, 2004 arrest, on April 19, 2004, Ruggiero was charged by complaint with, inter alia, DUI (Count I), in violation of HRS § 291E-61 (Supp.2003), see infra note 10.3 On September 8, 2004, the district court of the second circuit, the Honorable Douglas H. Ige presiding, conducted a trial and convicted Ruggiero, inter alia, of that charge.

The district court then proceeded to the sentencing phase of the trial, whereupon the plaintiff-appellee State of Hawai`i [hereinafter, "the prosecution"] moved for an enhanced sentence based on the prior January 29, 2003 conviction. After a conference in chambers, the district court made the following statement:

[Ruggiero]'s co-counsel[] brought to the Court's attention that the conviction that the prosecution is relying on for [DUI] that occurred on October 6, 2002 whereby the defendant was convicted on January 29, 2003, had been appealed and the Supreme Court by summary disposition order reversed the conviction [on March 19, 2004].

So the defense was arguing that, accordingly, it should not be considered as a prior conviction. There is a provision, however, in [HRS § ]291[E-]61(c), whereby it states that any judgment on a verdict of a finding of guilty ... that at the time of the offense has not been expunged by pardon, reverse[d], [or] set aside shall be deemed a prior conviction under this section.

The question now is the legal [e]ffect of that statutory provision. Because the reversal took place on March ... 19, 2004.... And the date of this violation was March 10, 2004, nine days earlier. So at the time of the commission of this offense, that conviction had not been reversed by the Supreme Court.

The district court then continued the sentencing hearing to allow both parties to brief the issue of whether Ruggiero's prior conviction could serve as the basis for an enhanced sentence as a repeat offender, pursuant to HRS § 291E-61(c), see infra note 10. In his memorandum in opposition, Ruggiero argued only that the language of the statute was ambiguous and that the ambiguity should therefore be construed in his favor.4

At the September 30, 2004 hearing, Ruggiero reiterated the argument set forth in his memorandum. The district court asked Ruggiero's counsel whether any other arguments came to mind:

The Court: [I]s there anything outside the clear reading of the statute ...



— constitutional grounds, anything else that would prevent the Court from ... applying the clear reading of the statute[?]

Counsel: Just, your Honor, in the interest of justice and fairness the first conviction should not count as it was overturned before this current conviction....

First, he already completed classes and other requirements for the first conviction that was overturned, even though it was overturned. He has faced those penalties already for that offense.

Second, your Honor, the legislative history does not indicate a reason for the language of the statute at issue. So, basically, your Honor, he is punished for the first offense, although it's overturned. Now he faces a second conviction and a second conviction penalties.

Your Honor, the legislature may have intended that the language of the statute provides notice to defendants about their convictions so that they can conform their behavior, but here Mr. Ruggiero had a valid issue for appeal and believed he would win on appeal[;] therefore he wasn't on notice that he would be facing a second conviction penalty.

The Court: Well, you're making the arguments that you made in your ... written — I don't need you to read it back to me.... So, anything else?

Counsel: No, your honor.

(Some capitalization altered.) The district court then concluded that

[o]n the clear reading of [HRS § 291E-61(c)] when the defendant committed this offense it would have been his second. There was a previous conviction that had not yet been overturned by the appellate courts.


The Court believes that that reading of that statute is clear. It's not ambiguous. And at the time of the commission of this offense on March 10, 2004, the conviction of the previous [DUI] [that] occurred on October 6, 2002[,] resulting in conviction on January 29th, 2003[,] had not been set aside.

[T]he Court has not been cited [and no] argument has been made to the Court ... whereby any statutory or constitutional provision or requirement would prevent the Court from ... interpreting or applying the statute as it clearly reads in the statute.

So the Court will find that this offense is the second offense for the defendant within a five year period under [HRS § ]291E-61.

The court proceeded to sentence Ruggiero, as a second-time offender, to fines, fourteen days in jail, and a one-year license suspension.

Ruggiero filed a timely notice of appeal on October 29, 2004.


"[T]he interpretation of a statute ... is a question of law reviewable de novo." State v. Arceo, 84 Hawai`i 1, 10, 928 P.2d 843, 852 (1996)....

Gray v. Admin[.] Dir[.] of the Court, 84 Hawai`i 138, 144, 931 P.2d 580, 586 (1997). Furthermore, our statutory construction is guided by established rules:

When construing a statute, our foremost obligation is to ascertain and give effect to the intention of the legislature, which is to be obtained primarily from the language contained in the statute itself. And we must read statutory language in the context of the entire statute and construe it in a manner consistent with its purpose.

When there is doubt, doubleness of meaning, or indistinctiveness or uncertainty of an expression used in a statute, an ambiguity exists.

In construing an ambiguous statute, "[t]he meaning of the ambiguous words may be sought by examining the context, with which the ambiguous words, phrases, and sentences may be compared, in order to ascertain their true meaning." HRS § 1-15(1) [ (1993) ]. Moreover, the courts may resort to extrinsic aids in determining legislative intent. One avenue is the use of legislative history as an interpretive tool.

Gray, 84 Hawai`i at 148, 931 P.2d at 590 (footnote omitted). This court may also...

To continue reading

Request your trial
48 cases
  • State v. Jess
    • United States
    • Hawaii Supreme Court
    • March 31, 2008
    ... ... at 434, 163 P.3d at 1171 (Acoba, J., concurring and dissenting) (emphasis added) ...         The plurality again stated in State v. Ruggiero, 114 Hawai'i 227, 160 P.3d 703 (2007), that "considerations of due process continue to require that the aggravating factors set forth in [the OVUII statute] all of which remain attendant circumstances that are intrinsic to ... the ... offenses ... be alleged in the charging instrument and ... ...
  • Schwartz v. State
    • United States
    • Hawaii Supreme Court
    • November 19, 2015
  • Schwartz v. State
    • United States
    • Hawaii Supreme Court
    • November 19, 2015
    ...Id. at 160, 315 P.3d at 786. The ICA reached this conclusion by looking at this court's analysis in State v. Ruggiero, 114 Hawai‘i 227, 160 P.3d 703 (2007), and State v. Kekuewa, 114 Hawai‘i 411, 163 P.3d 1148 (2007), and noted that in both cases, the decisions determined that the complaint......
  • State v. Sunderland
    • United States
    • Hawaii Supreme Court
    • September 21, 2007
    ... ... " (Emphasis added.)). Recently, in State v. Ruggiero, 114 Hawai`i 227, 241, 160 P.3d 703, 717 (2007), all members of this court, including the plurality, agreed to note plain error although the error was not brought to the attention of the trial court or this court. See also In re Doe, 102 Hawai`i 75, 87, 73 P.3d 29, 41 (2003); State v. McGriff, ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT