It is a crime in the state of Hawaii to operate a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant. You can be charged with a DWI, also called an OVUII, if your blood alcohol content is greater than .08 percent or if an officer determines that you are influenced by alcohol in an amount sufficient to impair normal mental faculties. For commercial vehicle drivers, the legal limit is .04 percent, and for drivers younger than the age of 21, it is .02 percent.
You can also be charged with a DWI in Hawaii if you are under the influence of any amount of a drug or substance that impairs your ability to drive. It is at an officer’s discretion to determine if you appear to be impaired. While Hawaii does allow marijuana use for some medical conditions, having a legal status as a medical patient does not grant any leeway in DWI thresholds or penalties. If any amount of marijuana or metabolite is found in your blood, it can be grounds for a DWI charge.
Hawaii’s implied consent law states that anyone operating a vehicle on the state’s roads or waterways automatically gives consent to a breath, blood or urine test for alcohol and drugs at a police officer’s discretion. The first refusal of such a test results in an automatic suspension of the driver’s license for a period of one year. This is separate from any DWI charge that may or may not occur. Subsequent refusals add a potential two to five years to the suspension. Unlike many other states, refusal of a test in Hawaii cannot be entered into court later as an admission of guilt.
A fourth DWI in Hawaii rises to the level of a class C felony charge. However, there is a lookback period of five years. Only offenses committed in the previous five years are counted toward the current total of DWIs.
A DWI also becomes a felony charge automatically if any other person is injured in an alcohol-related incident. If another person is killed in the course of a DWI, the charge can rise to manslaughter or vehicular homicide.
Recent Changes to Hawaii DWI Law
As of January 2011, anyone arrested for a DWI is required to install and maintain an ignition interlock device for a specified period at their own expense. The period is determined by the circumstances of the case and is at the judge’s discretion. Driver’s licenses will also be suspended during this period and replaced with a temporary permit that indicates that an ignition interlock device must be in place in any vehicle that the driver is operating. Drivers who have refused to be tested will have their licenses suspended for one year but may obtain one of these restricted permits to drive with during that period.
Legislation is currently being considered by the state to lower the per se BAC limit for drivers from .08 percent to .05 percent.