Hawaii News

Pilot project will allow on-the-spot tickets, fines for Hawaiʻi resource violations

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Officers with the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement hand out a violation during a sweep on the Kalalau Trail on Kauaʻi. PC: DLNR (11.16.22)

The Hawaiʻi State Department of Land and Natural Resources is putting together a three-month pilot project that will allow state conservation enforcement resource officers to issue on-the-spot tickets and/or fines for rule violations.

Officers from the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement will have the authority to write civil citations for rules violations on lands under the jurisdiction of the divisions of Forestry and Wildlife, Aquatic Resources, and Boating and Ocean Recreation.

Known as a Civil Resource Violation System, it is another tool for state enforcement.

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Like enforcement actions taken through the Board of Land and Natural Resources, these penalties are civil and carry non-criminal penalties.

The “toolbox” also contains criminal actions the resource officers can take, including the physical arrest of violators or the issuance of criminal citations which carry criminal penalties.

Criminal penalties and board actions can result in high fines or jail time. These penalties are often ordered for egregious violations. 

Officers with the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement hand out a violation during a sweep on the Kalalau Trail on Kauaʻi. PC: DLNR (11.16.22)
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The Civil Resource Violation System functions like traffic tickets. Resource officers issue a “Notice of Violation” to a suspected violator, who can respond in one of three ways: 

  • Admit the violation and pay the fine. 
  • Admit the violation with mitigating circumstances and wait for a response from the hearing officer. 
  • Contest the violation and wait for a hearing notice from the hearing officer. 

The system is unique, with violations processed by the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Administrative Proceedings Office instead of going through the district court system.

Fines are collected in a Special Fund account rather than being deposited in the State General Fund. Considered a civil fine, there is a lower standard of proof. 

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The Department of Land and Natural Resources expect to begin the pilot program in February 2024. This will provide time for conservation enforcement resource officers to be trained, develop guidance for office discretion, and other protocols. 

“Our information shows that Hawai‘i is the third state to implement a CRVS, after Vermont and Oregon,” Department Chair Dawn Chang said in a press release. “We expect the civil violation system will provide our DOCARE officers with greater latitude in addressing resource violations; will reduce the amount of time they need to be in court and away from the field; and let violators know immediately the penalties for violating natural and cultural resources laws and rules and give them an opportunity to immediately settle their cases.”

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