State v. Sandoval

Decision Date27 May 2021
Docket NumberSCWC-18-0000636
Citation149 Hawai‘i 221,487 P.3d 308
Parties STATE of Hawai‘i, Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Manuel SANDOVAL, Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant.
CourtHawaii Supreme Court

Walter J. Rodby, Honolulu, for petitioner

Chad M. Kumagai for respondent



Manuel Sandoval is the defendant in three separate criminal cases related to repeated violations of an injunction against harassment. The injunction was put in place against Sandoval by Complaining Witness 1 (CW1), a woman with whom Sandoval used to work. Sandoval pleaded no contest in two cases to a total of eleven counts of violating an injunction against harassment; in both cases, he was sentenced to probation.

Two years later, he was convicted after a bench trial of one count of violating an injunction against harassment, and one count of second-degree assault of Complaining Witness 2 (CW2). At sentencing, the Circuit Court of the First Circuit (circuit court) revoked Sandoval's probation in the two prior cases based on Sandoval's stipulation that he had violated the terms of his probation. Following the revocation of his probation, the court sentenced Sandoval to consecutive one-year terms for each of the twelve total counts of violating the injunction against harassment and five years for the assault conviction, for a total of seventeen years of imprisonment. The Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) affirmed, and we granted Sandoval's application for a writ of certiorari.

We conclude that before accepting a defendant's stipulation to a probation violation, the trial court must ensure that the defendant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily enters into the stipulation. A stipulation to a violation of the terms of one's probation can have significant consequences, including - as was the case here - the potential for extended incarceration. The record does not reflect that Sandoval understood the consequences of stipulating to the State's motions to revoke probation, and accordingly, the stipulation should be vacated. Moreover, at Sandoval's resentencing hearing, the circuit court did not sufficiently justify the imposition of consecutive sentences for each count while considering the factors in Hawai‘i Revised Statutes (HRS) § 706-606 (2014). Thus, we vacate Sandoval's sentence and remand for further proceedings related to Sandoval's probation revocation and resentencing.

A. Circuit Court Proceedings
1. Change of Plea Hearing, 1PC-14-1-001782 (Case 1)

On May 18, 2015, the circuit court1 held a change of plea hearing in Case 1 at which Sandoval pleaded no contest to nine counts of violating an injunction against harassment of CW1 pursuant to HRS § 604-10.5(i) (2016),2 and the State agreed to nolle prosequi the remaining four counts.

After a colloquy, the court found that Sandoval "knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently entered his plea with an understanding of the nature of the charges against him," accepted the change of plea, and adjudged Sandoval guilty as charged as to all nine counts.

The State and Sandoval's counsel agreed on a recommended sentence: 180-day jail term with credit for time served, one year of probation, a "stay-away order" from CW1 and the restaurant where she worked (which Sandoval's mother owned), and mental health assessment and treatment. The court imposed this sentence on each count as "a concurrent sentence meaning everything ... will run together."

2. Change of Plea Hearing, 1PC-15-1-001156 (Case 2)

On March 21, 2016, the court heard Sandoval's change of plea in Case 2, for two counts of violating the injunction against harassment of CW1. The court again accepted Sandoval's plea of no contest after a colloquy.

Noting that Sandoval had seventeen prior convictions for violating a restraining order or injunction against harassment - plus the two counts to which he pleaded that day - the State requested one year of probation and mental health assessment and treatment. Sandoval agreed and also requested credit for time served. The court followed the recommendations and imposed one year of probation with 100 days imprisonment on both counts (the amount of time he had already been incarcerated), to run concurrently.

3. Trial, 1PC-16-1-0563 (Case 3)

In March 2018, Sandoval was tried on one count of second-degree assault of CW2 in violation of HRS § 707-711 (2014 & Supp. 2018)3 and one count of violating an injunction against harassment of CW1. The bench trial stemmed from the events of April 8, 2016, where Sandoval twice visited the restaurant where CW1 worked, once around 8:00 p.m. and again around 10:00 p.m. Both visits culminated in physical altercations, and Sandoval was charged with violating the injunction against harassment of CW1 for the 8:00 p.m. incident and with second-degree assault of CW2 for the 10:00 p.m. incident. Conflicting versions of the events of the day emerged at trial. In Sandoval's version of the 8:00 p.m. incident, RR, CW1's coworker, along with CW2, attacked Sandoval. When Sandoval returned at 10:00 p.m. to gather belongings he had left at the scene, CW2 approached Sandoval, and Sandoval defended himself with his fists, thinking CW2 intended to attack him again. Sandoval acknowledged that he "str[uck] [CW2] first" during the 10:00 p.m. incident. But according to several witnesses, CW2 did not hit Sandoval during the 8:00 p.m. incident, and Sandoval attacked CW2 with a knife when Sandoval returned to the scene at 10:00 p.m. The State introduced photos of two cuts on CW2's face: one on his left cheek and one on the right side of his face in the space between his nose and mouth. CW2 went to Wahiawa General Hospital, where he got stitches.

The circuit court found Sandoval guilty on both counts.

4. Motions for Revocation of Probation and Resentencing, Cases 1 and 2, and Sentencing, Case 3

The State moved to revoke Sandoval's probation on various grounds in Cases 1 and 2. At the hearing on the State's motion, Sandoval's counsel began by stating that Sandoval would stipulate that the convictions in Case 3 violated the terms and conditions of his probation. The parties and the court had the following exchange:

[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Judge, I've had a chance to speak to Mr. Sandoval about the two motions for revocation of probation. At this point in time, although he knows he has the right to have a contested hearing to have [his probation officer] come in and testify to the Court about violations, he would not be doing that. And he would be stipulating that the convictions here violated the terms and conditions of his probation.
THE COURT: Thank you.
[THE STATE]: You need to get that from the defendant directly.
THE COURT: Mr. Sandoval; is that correct?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, Your Honor. At the times of probation I did check in, but I'm not going to deny that I did not pick up a new charge, or I'm not saying –
THE COURT: There are other reasons as to why the motions were filed.
THE DEFENDANT: Oh and I did have it appointed, I just – ‘cause I got rearrested, I was not able to make an appointment. So I did not –
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: For the substance abuse assessment.
THE DEFENDANT: - I wasn't able to comply.
THE COURT: [Defense counsel], would you like to take a few minutes and go over -
[THE STATE]: Actually, I think to make it easier I would orally supplement both motions to indicate that he has been convicted of a felony which requires the Court to revoke the probation if he will stipulate that he did receive the terms and conditions that were included in each motion, and he is the same person and he understood everything.

The circuit court recessed so that Sandoval could review this information with his counsel. After the recess, the following exchange occurred:

THE COURT: Is he still stipulating to both motions?
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Yes, Judge, with an explanation, if you would bear with us.
THE COURT: Alright.
THE DEFENDANT: Yeah. My explanation, I was out for three weeks, Your Honor. And I did see my probation officer. And I did get a full-time job ... even though some of supervise[d] release the prosecutor said that, oh, they couldn't confirm that[.]
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: But – but, Judge, Mr. Sandoval, even though he was working, he did not provide the information to his probation officer ‘cause he was arrested shortly thereafter.
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: And, of course, we're also agreeing that he did get arrested for violating the restraining order.
THE COURT: Mr. Sandoval, the motions then will be granted and you will be resentenced in those two misdemeanor cases; do you understand?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, ma'am.
THE COURT: In addition to the felony case today.

During the sentencing portion of the hearing, the State first discussed whether probation would be appropriate, addressing every factor listed in HRS § 706-621 (2014),4 the statute governing probation. Since the circuit court subsequently adopted the State's analysis, we quote it at length here:

2-A. The defendant's criminal conduct neither caused nor threatened serious harm. The Court has found that it did cause a substantial bodily injury. Also, with this being the nineteenth conviction for either violation of TRO or injunction against harassment taken out by the same petitioner, [CW1]. Although each violation may not seem like so much, it most certainly adds up, especially to the mental well-being of the petitioner. That factor goes against the defendant.
B. The defendant acted under a strong provocation. Though he testified to that effect, the Court found the other witnesses to be credible and, thus, consistently would not find that his claims of provocation are true. That factor goes against the defendant.
[C.] There was substantial grounds tending to excuse or justify the defendant's criminal conduct, though failing to establish a defense. Same thing again. He was in the midst of a fight. He

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