New Penalties for Natural Resource Violations
Proposed DLNR civil system cuts back on criminal cases, and makes handing out a fine for violations possible.
DLNR representative Bin Li gave a presentation on Aug. 1 to propose a new set of rules that will allow officers to hand out fines for natural resource violations.
By Zalina Alvi
New rules proposed by the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) would make it possible to hand out civil violations for natural resource offenses.
The draft rules were presented last week in Kaunakakai during an informal public information session hosted by DLNR representatives who said the plan would help the department “step up on resource enforcement.”
After a series of statewide public hearings, DLNR hopes to implement the plan by June 2009.
A Civil Penalty System
Currently, if someone were to violate one of the Hawaii Administrative Rules that fall under DLNR, for example using any type of fishing net except thrownets at Kaunakakai Harbor, the only option available is to enforce the violation as a criminal offense.
With this new system, enforcement officers could choose to issue citations for minor violations – either a fine, retribution for fees and costs, or non-monetary sanctions like restoration – that would not have to go through the court system.
However, in the case of repeat offenders or major offenses, officers will still be able to enforce the violation as a criminal offense instead of or in addition to a civil citation.
The new civil system was created to respond to problems with the current criminal process. These include the fact that most natural resource violations are civil in nature; there are no sentencing guidelines available for judges and prosecutors who have limited expertise in resource law and enforcement; defendants have to appear in court, often traveling long distances to do so; and most individuals fight criminal charges because they don’t want it on their record.
The DLNR expects most violators would be more willing to settle a fine. The new code also allows for other methods of accountability that the courts normally won’t order, such as restoration, restitution, or non-monetary sanctions.
Citations can be issued by any Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) officer or any local division with the Civil Resource Violations System (CRVS) administration’s approval.
Some concern over leniency towards natural resource violators was brought up during the meeting last week, but the feedback was largely positive.
“This is better than nothing, to make sure people know there is a consequence, even for the minor stuff,” said resident Judy Caparida.
DLNR will be holding formal public hearings on the new system within the next few months. Dates and location for the Molokai meeting will be announced later.
A list of violations and possible penalties will be put together based on the public input received at these sessions. Once the list is created, it will be made public and a separate series of public meetings will be held to gather feedback.
Comments and questions can be sent to Bin Li, Administrative Proceedings Office coordinator at DLNR.APO@hawaii.gov or 587-1496.