Maui News

House passes law to increase penalties for driving without a license

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The House of Representatives on Thursday passed House Bill 2526 HD2 SD1, which increases the statutory penalties for repeat offenders who drive without a license or while on a suspended license. Upon a third conviction within five years, the offense would become a Class C felony, carrying a maximum term of five years in prison.

Speaker Scott K. Saiki (D-25 Ala Moana, Kaka‘ako, Downtown) introduced the bill to impose stricter penalties on irresponsible drivers after a McKinley High School student’s life was claimed by a habitual traffic offender. The shared grief felt by Speaker Saiki and the community prompted Saiki to propose the bill that is now heading to the governor’s desk for signature, and to advocate for the Honolulu Prosecutor’s office to implement procedural changes to hold those who perpetually violate the law accountable.

“In working closely with the school and community, we have made strides in improving traffic safety through the installation of speed humps and a red light camera in high pedestrian and vehicle zones,” said Speaker Scott K. Saiki. “The focus now shifts towards reforming the legal process for habitual traffic offenders. Stronger penalties could prevent future tragedies from occurring.”

Under current law, DWOL offenders can be convicted repeatedly for the same behavior while only facing a misdemeanor. However, under House Bill 2526 HD2 SD1, the court is prevented from discharging the case with a simple fine and the penalties escalate— a first DWOL offense within five years could result in a thirty-day prison term, a second conviction within the same timeframe could lead to one year behind bars, and a third conviction within five years would constitute a Class C felony, punishable by five years in prison.


“This bill will contribute significantly to making our roads and highways safer,” said Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve S. Alm in testimony submitted to the Senate Committee on Judiciary on April 4, 2024. 

House Bill 2526 HD2 SD1 now proceeds to the governor’s desk for his signature. Upon enactment, the law takes effect July 1.


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