Aloha, I'm Nick with A-1 Bail Bonds. In this issue of "Jail Mail" we'll discuss:
1) Attorney Thomas Otake wins A-1's Highest Honor of TOP GUN for a second consecutive year (2021 & 2022).
2) How Thomas Otake won Hawaii Supreme Court case Obrero v. State of Hawai‘i
Celebrating Legal Excellence: Attorney Thomas Otake Wins TOP GUN Award for Second Year in a Row
In the world of law, there are certain cases that leave a lasting impact; Obrero v. State of Hawaii was one such case where the fundamental rights of the accused needed to be reaffirmed to safeguard the citizens of Hawaii from unfair charging practices.
On November 7, 2019, Richard Obrero fired a gun at several individuals who unlawfully entered his home, resulting in the death of a minor. On the morning of November 14, 2019, the State sought a grand jury indictment against Obrero for the offenses, however the grand jury denied to return a true bill on all of the offenses.
That afternoon, the State proceeded with a preliminary hearing in the district court which ultimately found probable cause to charge Obrero on six offenses, which included murder in the second degree, a class-A felony.
Mr. Otake filed a motion to dismiss the complaint against Obrero on two grounds.
Firstly, Mr. Otake argued that HRS § 801-1 mandates that the prosecution of class-A felonies must be done via grand jury indictment. Secondly, he contended that the State's attempt to bypass the grand jury's "No Bill" determination through a complaint and preliminary hearing violated the Hawai‘i Constitution.
The circuit court denied the motion, holding that the charges could proceed based on the finding of probable cause at the preliminary hearing.
Undeterred, Mr. Otake boldly appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, seeking further clarification on the matter. Ultimately, the Supreme Court agreed with Mr. Otake and stated that a class-A felony could not be charged without a grand jury indictment.
Furthermore, based on legislative intent, the Supreme Court ruled that the State's use of a probable cause hearing after the grand jury's refusal to indict was unconstitutional.
In the majority opinion Associate Justice Eddins wrote, “We agree, Obrero isn’t charged with contempt...and the felonies he’s charged with are neither within the jurisdiction of the district court nor chargeable by information. … So Obrero is a person who shall not ‘be subject to be tried and sentenced … in any court, for an alleged offense, unless upon indictment.’”
The watershed ruling was so impactful, that it led to the dismissal and recharging of dozens of defectively charged felony cases.
Months later, a special legislative session was fast-tracked so that newly elected governor Josh Green could sign Senate Bill 36, which amended state law to allow county prosecutors to initiate felony cases via complaint following a preliminary hearing.
Thanks to Mr. Otake's work, the prosecutor's office now has clearer and more transparent charging guildelines where they are authorized to choose alternatively between a preliminary hearing or grand jury indictment, but CANNOT make sequential attempts as they did in the Obrero case. Furthermore, language was added where multiple attempts could only be made where specific legal circumstances were present.
The procedural loophole is officially closed and today's statutes enhance the fairness and efficiency of the criminal justice system in Hawaii.
A-1 is not the only agency to recognize Mr. Otake's excellence. BEST LAWYERS has recognized Mr. Otake in 2020, 2021, and 2022 as "Lawyer of the Year" in the criminal defense specialties listed above.
CLICK HERE to view the latest Judiciary news from Stephanie Nagaoka of the A-1 News Network
Obrero v. State of Hawai‘i serves as a significant legal precedent, affirming Mr. Otake's interpretation of the law which requires a grand jury indictment for class-A felony crimes. He was able to call out the unfair, but previously commonplace practice of the prosecutor's office attempting to supersede failed grand jury indictment attempts with subsequent preliminary hearings to establish probable cause.
Let that sink in folks; Mr. Otake challenged and caused a change to an unconstitutional charging practice that had been going on for decades.
This landmark case and the subsequent legislative actions serve as a testament to the impact Mr. Otake has had in shaping the course of justice in Hawaii.
Earlier this year, A-1 reworked our phone system with the goal of never missing a call. Since implementing our new system in January of 2022, A-1 has a near 100% answer rate. Our google listing number, 808-664-5010 rings to 4 agents sequentially, so YOU can reach a live person on almost every call.