As a former state prosecutor in the 1980s, Judge Steven Aim first witnessed an inconsistent system that immediately incarcerated many convicted common criminals while releasing others on probation. Once on probation, the overwhelmed system typically failed to take any corrective action when offenders violated the terms of probation. Drug and alcohol problems seemed to be a common thread that connected offenders to their criminal behavior. After he became a judge in 2001, Judge Aim conferred with the principal parties involved in law enforcement and defense to develop Hawaii's Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) program, designed to take a consistent approach to probation that gives participants a greater chance of success.
Without a doubt, many people lose the ability to make reasonable judgments when under the influence of intoxicating substances ranging from alcohol to hallucinogenic drugs. Poor judgment can cause drug users to commit serious felony crimes - even murder. In spite of the parallels between intoxication and insanity, Hawaii law has only limited provisions for allowing the insanity defense when alcohol or drugs contribute to the commission of criminal acts.
With the current popularity of television crime dramas, many people have a fairly accurate understanding of the overall process of bringing a state criminal case to trial. Although federal cases follow a similar overall pattern, federal agencies have the resources needed to extend each step of the process. A year or more often passes before charges are filed in a federal criminal case.
In the year 2000, Hawaii was added to the list of states that instituted medical marijuana laws and more states are currently considering similar laws. However, federal law does not legalize any form of marijuana usage, and in the event of a conflict with state laws, the federal laws typically take precedence - potentially with disastrous results to defendants