Traffic Infractions


     Most DUI cases begin when the defendant is stopped for a traffic infraction (e.g. speeding, failure to stop for a stoplight, failure to drive "as much as practicable within a single lane, etc.). The standard procedure in such situations is to issue the defendant a citation. 


     Pictured below is a citation that was issued to Mr. Mac Master for allegedly driving at 50 mph in a 35 mph zone on the Pali Hwy. Mr. Mac Master contested the charge and it was dismissed.  If you are willing to fight your traffic infraction charge, you may also able be able to get it dismissed. 

     You may have received a yellow copy of a citation when you were released from custody. However, just because you were not given any copy of a citation, does not mean that none was issued (or more importantly entered into the State's traffic data base).  It is always a good idea to check the State's traffic data base a couple of weeks after the arrest to make sure that there are not any outstanding citations for you.  As part of a free consultation, Mr. Mac Master will be glad to help you to discover whether a citation was entered against you.


Responding To A Citation


     When you receive a traffic citation, you have two basic choices: (1) fight; or (2) admit and pay.  If you admit liability for the infraction it will remain on your driving record and may have an impact on your insurance rates or employment options.  On the back of the yellow citation form, there are three options listed:


     1.     Admit and pay;

     2.     Deny; and

     3.     Admit but explain mitigating circumstances.

     If you just want to admit liability and pay at fine, follow the instructions for "Option 1" or "Option 3." You can pay a fine in person at one of the District Courts.  You can pay over the phone by VISA or Mastercard at 1-800-679-5949.  You can also pay by VISA or Mastercard over the internet at the Hawaii State Judiciary website at To use the online system to pay the citation you must make the payment within 21 calander  days from the date of the issuance of the citation. You can mail a payment by check or money order to the District Court in an envelope postmarked within 21 calander days from the date of the issuance of the citation.  


     If you mail a payment to the District Court, you are also supposed to enclose a copy of the citation and the Answer to Notice form that is on a tear away flap of the envelope that may, or may not, have been given to you with the citation. If you do not have the Answer to Notice form, a signed letter stating that you want to admit and pay and your check or money order will probably be good enough.


Fighting A

Traffic Infraction Charge


     To fight a traffic infraction charge, you follow the instructions for "Option 2" on the back of the citation (or just ask Mr. Mac Master for assistance). Usually, the best way to fight a traffic infraction charge is to go to the clerk's counter at the District Court and request a hearing to contest the charge in person.  This method is described on the back of the citation in the subsection of "Option 2" entitled "Contest In Person."


      Mr. Mac Master calls this hearing a "tell it to the Judge hearing."  If you want to fight the charge, you can request a "hearing to contest the allegations".  Follow the instructions for requesting a hearing that are printed on the back of the citation or ask Mr. Mac Master for assistance.  


     HCTR Rule 8(b) also specifically allows the defendant to contest the charge by "submitting a written statement in lieu of appearing in person at the hearing."  This method sounds reasonable enough and should be more convenient than making a Court appearance.  However, opting to contest the ticket with a written statement has often proved for no good reason to be clerically problematic at times in the past. Consequently, requesting a "tell it to the Judge" hearing is usually the best first step to take when fighting a traffic infraction charge.


Step 1:  The "Tell It To

The Judge" Hearing


     The hearing will usually be scheduled about a month after it is requested.  Mr. Mac Master calls it a "tell it to the Judge hearing" because it is the defendant's opportunity to tell a District Court Judge the defendant's side of the story.  There is no prosecutor at the hearing. At the hearing it is just you, the Judge, the citation and any evidence or testimony that you present to tell your side of the story.


     You can subpoena witnesses to give testimony at the hearing.  During the hearing, you can present testimony from witnesses and offer photographs, videos and other documents as evidence.  However, it is usually just a "tell it to the Judge hearing" because most hearings are usually decided by the Judge having a look at the Notice of Infraction and listening to anything relevant that the defendant wants to tell the Judge.


     A defendant can appear with, or without, an attorney at a "tell it to the Judge hearing."  Mr. Mac Master can also be retained to appear at the hearing for you and to waive your presence (so you do not need to appear in person).  


     If the officer did a competent job of filling out the Notice of Infraction, and the defendant does not have a valid defense to the charge, the Judge should "find in favor of the State".  HTCR Rule 9 states:



      (a) Notice of Infraction. The notice of infraction is sufficient if it contains either a written description of or statutory designation for the infraction. If the defendant's signature is not obtained on the notice of infraction, the officer may indicate either "refused to sign,” “unavailable” or "no signature for safety reasons." The lack of the defendant's signature for any reason does not void the notice of infraction. The defendant is deemed to have been notified of the infraction when the notice of infraction is issued.

      (b) Speed Measuring Device: Certification.

      (1) Generally. This Rule 9(b) applies only to hearings in which the defendant denies or contests commission of the infraction.

      (2) Certificate; Form. The officer may certify on any speeding notice of infraction that the testing device was in proper working order at the time the notice of infraction was issued.


     Rule 9(a) suggests that if the citing officer checked a box on the citation form next to a "statutory designation for the infraction" that the citation is sufficient.  Mr. Mac Master shakes his head and calls this the "check the box test." When the Court applies the "check the box test" to defense usually loses.  However, some judges want to see some specific facts concerning the charge written in the "Officer's Observations" section of the ticket before they will rule in favor of the State and hold the defendant liable on the traffic infraction charge.  


     Mr. Mac Master requested a hearing to fight the speeding citation pictured above.  The speeding charge was dismissed because during the last 20 years, Mr. Mac Master had an otherwise "clean driving record."  This was not some type of special treatment for Mr. Mac Master.  That day in Court, the Presiding Judge was dismissing the traffic infraction charges of all the "tell it to the Judge hearing" defendants who had a similarly "clean driving record."  No arguments about inadequate accuracy verification testing of LIDAR unit (i.e. "laser gun") were necessary.  Sometimes you just get lucky.  However, you cannot win, unless you are willing to fight. 


     If the Judge "finds in favor of the State" and upholds the traffic infraction charge, under HRS § 291C-161(b) the fines, penalties and driver improvement programs that can be imposed are as follows:


 §291C-161  Penalties.  (a)  It is a violation for any person to violate any of the provisions of this chapter, except as otherwise specified in subsections (c) and (d) and unless the violation is by other law of this State declared to be a felony, misdemeanor, or petty misdemeanor.

     (b)  Except as provided in subsections (c) and (d), every person who is determined to have violated any provision of this chapter for which another penalty is not provided shall be fined:

     (1)  Not more than $200 for a first violation thereof;

     (2)  Not more than $300 for a second violation committed within one year after the date of the first violation; and

     (3)  Not more than $500 for a third or subsequent violation committed within one year after the date of the first violation.

(c)  Every person convicted under or found in violation of section 291C-12, 291C-12.5, 291C-12.6, 291C-13, 291C-14, 291C-15, 291C-16, 291C-72, 291C-73, 291C-95, 291C-102, 291C-103, 291C-104, or 291C-105 shall be sentenced or fined in accordance with those sections.

     (d)  Every person who violates section 291C-13 or 291C-18 shall:

     (1)  Be fined not more than $200 or imprisoned not more than ten days for a first conviction thereof;

     (2)  Be fined not more than $300 or imprisoned not more than twenty days or both for conviction of a second offense committed within one year after the date of the first offense; and

     (3)  Be fined not more than $500 or imprisoned not more than six months or both for conviction of a third or subsequent offense committed within one year after the date of the first offense.

     (e)  The court may assess a sum not to exceed $50 for the cost of issuing a penal summons upon any person who fails to appear at the place within the time specified in the citation issued to the person for any traffic violation.

     (f)  The court may require a person who violates any of the provisions of this chapter to attend a course of instruction in driver retraining as deemed appropriate by the court, in addition to any other penalties imposed.


     Even if the citation is upheld at the "tell it to the Judge hearing", the District Court may also knock some of the speed off a speeding ticket (e.g. reduce the speed charged from 50 mph in a 35 mph zone to 40 mph in a 35 mph zone) or reduce the fine that was specified on the ticket.


Step 2:  The Traffic Infraction Trial


     If if the citation is upheld at the "tell it to the Judge hearing" you have two choices: (1) pay the fine and have the adverse adjudication of the traffic infraction charge remain on your record; or (2) request a trial where the State will be required to prove the charge (and probably will need to produce the citing officer as a witness in order to do it).


     If you are fighting a traffic infraction charge that is based on the same factual circumstances as your DUI case, the District Court will usually be willing to set the trial that was requested after the tell it to the Judge hearing for the same time and Courtroom as the DUI case.  


     If a client can do their own "tell it to the Judge hearing", and get the trial for any associated traffic infractions set for the same time and Courtroom as the DUI case, Mr. Mac Master will usually defend the traffic infractions at trial too for no additional fee.

Contact Mr. Mac Master immediately for a free telephone consultation


(808) 531-8080


fax: (808) 531-4044


send e-mail to Mr. Mac Master at

The information in this website is provided as a public service. It is not intended to be given to, or taken by, any individual or organization as legal advice specifically for that individual or organization. Merely viewing this website does not create an attorney-client relationship with Mr. Mac Master. Any individual who has been arrested for DUI, or any other criminal offense, or cited for any violation, is hereby requested to contact Mr. Mac Master, or another duly licensed attorney, to seek legal advice applicable to the unique facts and circumstances of that individual's situation.