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Hawaii Supreme Court Rules That Time Served for Concurrent Sentences Can Be Counted Only Once for Sentence Credit

by Keith Sanders

On March 15, 2023, the Supreme Court of Hawaii ruled that Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) §706-671 (2014) does not entitle a defendant to count time earned in detention or incarceration twice against consecutive sentences imposed later.

The Court’s ruling concerned Jonathan Vaden, who was charged with five drug and property crimes in 2018. In 2019, after serving several months in jail, Vaden pleaded no contest to every charge except one and was sentenced to four years of probation, running concurrently. Additionally, Vaden received a six-month sentence for misdemeanor charges and 12 and 18 months for his felonies. Later that year, Vaden applied for, and was granted, admission to the Maui Drug Court, which released him from custody.

In December 2019, Vaden violated the rules of the drug court program. The court subsequently revoked his probation and issued five-year and 10-year sentences to run consecutively. The time Vaden served while on probation and in detention prior to sentencing was not given to the court by the state Department of Public Safety (DPS), though it is required to provide a certificate indicating Vaden’s time in detention, under HRS §706-671(1) and (2)). Nevertheless, the court credited Vaden 340 days to his five-year sentence and one day towards his 10-year sentence.

Relying on HRS §706.671 (1) and (2), Vaden then filed to have all 340 days credited to both sentences and also invoked double jeopardy. The court denied Vaden’s claim, stating that “‘presentence’ credit should be applied only once to the aggregate of consecutive sentences,” quoting State v. Tauiliili, 29 P.3d 914 (2001).

Vaden appealed, but the Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) affirmed the lower court’s ruling. The ICA pointed out that a distinction existed between presentence credit under HRS §706-671 (1) and probation incarceration credit, but noted that neither Vaden nor the State addressed the difference. Although the ICA stated the “record was unclear as to ‘what portion of the 340 days constituted presentencing days and probation sentencing days,’” it found that Tauiliili was “dispositive” and ruled Vaden could not be credited twice.

On appeal, the state Supreme Court then took up Vaden’s claim that ICA did not properly apply HRS §706-671, along with his argument that not counting the 340 days to his 10-year sentence violated the double jeopardy clause by “effectively adding 340 days to [the] sentence.”

First, the Court pointed out that HRS §706-671 (1) “deals with credit for detention time between arrest and the initial sentence,” while HRS §706-671 (2) applies to “time served under a ‘vacated’ sentence.’” The Court had previously ruled the statute also applies to time saved “pursuant to probation that is later revoked.”

Next, the Court analyzed the 340 days at issue and found it applied to three separate instances in Vaden’s claim: time served from arrest to sentencing, time served on probation, and time served after re-arrest and sentencing for violating Drug Court rules. The first two neatly fall into presentencing and probation incarceration time, the Court said, as defined by HRS §706-671 (1) and (2), respectively. So it concluded that the latter instance constituted presentencing time under HRS §706-671 (1) because it was “comparable to ‘presentence’ detention time since Vaden was not serving any ‘sentence’ during that period.”

Vaden claimed the ICA aggregate determination under the Tauiliili decision did not apply to him because Tauiliili concerned consecutive sentences within a single case, while Vaden’s concerned multiple cases. The Court did not agree. The Tauiliili ruling affirmed HRS §706-671 (1) does not allow “double dipping,” nor does HRS §706-671 (2) “suggest that the legislature intended time earned... should be credited against multiple sentences,” the Court said.

As for Vaden’s double jeopardy claim, the Court pointed out that if his probation had been vacated and the trial court had then refused to credit his time on probation, Vaden would be able to claim double jeopardy. But, the Court noted, that did not happen here; the 340 days were served prior to sentencing. Thus presentencing credit, the Court concluded with reference again to Tauiliili, applies to the aggregate time of later sentences. See: State v. Vaden, 2023 Haw. LEXIS 72. 

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