Prosecutor: Judge wrong to acquit Hawaii lawmaker of DUI

January 12, 2022 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) — Honolulu’s top prosecutor said Tuesday a judge was wrong to grant an acquittal to a Hawaii lawmaker charged with driving under the influence after police saw her driving the wrong way down a major thoroughfare.

In the middle of state Rep. Sharon Har’s trial Monday, per diem Judge Steven L. Hartley granted motions by her attorney for a dismissal and an acquittal.

“I was disappointed and I think the judge got it wrong,” Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm said at a news conference Tuesday.

Prosecutors believe they had a strong case against Har with her driving the wrong way. “That just screams impairment,” Alm said.

After prosecutors rested their case in the trial, Har’s attorney made oral motions for a dismissal and acquittal.

It’s common for defense attorneys to seek a judgement of acquittal during a trial, but it’s rarely granted, Alm said, noting that he never did so during his 15 years as a judge.

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The Hawaii Judiciary declined to comment when asked if Hartley could respond to Alm’s criticism of the ruling.

Har’s attorney, Howard Luke, said he strongly disagrees with Alm’s characterization of the evidence and the judge’s ruling.

Luke said he wants to reassure the public the judge did the right thing.

Prosecutors may not appeal the acquittal. “We have to live with this,” Alm said.

A judgement of acquittal can’t be appealed, Luke said.

After Har was pulled over, officers smelled alcohol on her breath and she had glassy eyes and slurred speech, police said.

Alm said at a server at Anyplace cocktail lounge, where Har had dinner the February 2021 night she was arrested, testified that Har had four Miller Lites.

Luke said she only drank sips from three bottles and left one untouched. She was also taking medication for a cough that wasn’t related to COVID-19, he said.