Pandemic and the Parks

Pandemic and the Parks

Can I really get a criminal record from a citation I received for being in a park closed because of the COVID-19 emergency?

Yes. Being in a park closed because of the state emergency is a criminal misdemeanor under Hawaii’s Emergency Management laws. It is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and one year in prison. This is a serious crime that carries serious consequences, especially in the context of Hawaii law overall. For example, driving while intoxicated is a petty misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of only $1,000 and 5 days in jail.

I was cited for being in a closed park and received a summons to appear in court on a date that I won’t be in Hawaii anymore. Do I really need to show up in court on that date?

Yes. If you do not appear, a bench warrant can be issued for your arrest. However, if you hire an attorney, the attorney can appear in court for you and fight to keep this off your permanent record while you are out-of-state.

Won’t I get a warning before receiving a criminal citation?

Maybe, maybe not. We have had clients who received court summons for first- time offenses, without receiving any warnings by the police.

Does this emergency law apply only to parks?

No. The prohibitions on activities and gatherings during this state of emergency are broad. It is best to talk to an attorney about the facts of your particular case.

What if I didn’t know the area was closed?

Knowledge that the area is closed is not a defense to the crime. It is enough that you intended to be in the area, whether or not you knew the area was closed or open to the public.

What if I wasn’t doing anything “bad” in a closed area?

Being there IS the bad thing you were doing, but your attorney can argue mitigating circumstances along with other available defenses.