Bill to increase penalty for driving without license in Hawaii sent to Green

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Apr. 20—The state House on Thursday passed a bill that would increase legal penalties for people who repeatedly drive without a license or with a suspended license.

The state House on Thursday passed a bill that would increase legal penalties for people who repeatedly drive without a license or with a suspended license.

The measure now is on Gov. Josh Green's desk, pending his signature.

House Speaker Scott Saiki (D, Ala Moana-Kakaako-Downtown ) introduced House Bill 2526 to impose stricter penalties on irresponsible drivers after Sara Yara, a McKinley High School student, was killed in a hit-and-run collision while she and another student were crossing Kapiolani Boulevard near the school in February 2023.

Under current law, repeat driving without a license, or DWOL, offenders face no more than a misdemeanor charge. HB 2526 increases the penalty for a third or subsequent offense related to unauthorized driving or operation of motor vehicles to a Class C felony.

For a first DWOL offense within five years, a 30-day prison term may be imposed ; for a second conviction within the same time frame, a one-year imprisonment could be imposed ; and a third conviction within five years constitutes a Class C felony, carrying a penalty of five years in prison.

Dozens of bills Friday passed out of the state House on mandatory final reading and will be transmitted to Green.

Another of the bills was HB 470, which would require that providers of free emergency shelter and associated serv ­ices maintain separate accommodations for unrelated adults and minor children.

State Rep. Della Au Belatti (D, Makiki-Punchbowl ) said she supports the bill because "it addresses ... a very important gap group (minors ) within our homeless population."

Three unsheltered youths died in 2023 while living on the streets of Oahu, Belatti said. One of them was Acacia Lynzey Kaiu-Brown from Nanakuli, who died in Kailua on July 25.

Belatti said Kaiu-Brown represents 1 in 4 homeless youth who reported becoming homeless because of physical or parental substance abuse.

"More than half of enhanced youths who want to access shelter and services are told it is not available, " she said. "We know from the Department of Education, there are 3, 542 students in unstable housing in the last two years."

The bill would allow "those vulnerable unhoused minors " to have pathways to end their homelessness by allowing vetted community providers to provide a safe and low-barrier alternative to licensed child care institutions, Belatti said.

However, state Rep. David Alcos III (R, Ocean Pointe-Barbers Point ) said he opposes the bill because he wants to protect parental rights in cases where children run away from their homes.

"What about if I had a kid—their cellphone got taken away, and they want to run away ? And you go to the shelter, I have no idea where that kid is, " Alcos said.

Alcos said he would "maybe understand " the bill better if the bill had different language that would allow shelters to call the parent or have the children update their parents on their location and situation.

Other bills that passed include HB 2657, which establishes judicial procedures to prevent and address abusive litigation practices commonly encountered in domestic or sexual abuse cases.

HB 2577 would authorize the state Department of Health to require the state Department of Education to report potential COVID-19 outbreaks or other public health emergencies and related information in a manner most appropriate to public health and safety, as determined by DOH.