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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Lack of blood test in crash an issue

By Peter Boylan
Advertiser Staff Writer


To read the law regarding mandatory testing in the event of an accident resulting in injury or death, go to capitol.hawaii.gov

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Honolulu police officers investigating a fatal June 12 collision involving a tour bus driver did not invoke a Hawai'i law that authorizes police to compel a motorist to undergo a blood test after an accident with a fatality or serious injury.

A police official said the department considers differently each instance in which a driver involved in a fatal crash refuses to give blood, saliva, urine, or submit to a field sobriety test.

In analyzing each case, the department points to one phrase in the statute that mandates an officer have probable cause before forcing a blood test and that the blood be drawn in a "reasonable manner."

"What is a reasonable manner? What's reasonable is really a case-to-case issue," said police spokesman Capt. Frank Fujii. "It's discretionary and that's the problem we're having."

Steve Oshiro, a Roberts Hawaii tour bus driver, collided head-on with a sport utility vehicle on June 12. The driver of the SUV, 41-year-old Corey Voss of Kane'ohe, was killed.

Oshiro refused a request from officers on the scene to take a field sobriety test or to submit to tests for drugs or alcohol. He later refused a request for a blood test from Roberts Hawai'i and was fired. Oshiro was arrested on suspicion of third-degree negligent homicide, a misdemeanor, and released.

Fujii referred further questions about the application of the statute by Honolulu police to the city's attorney. Corporation counsel Carrie K.S. Okinaga did not return a message seeking comment yesterday nor did she respond to two messages sent through a city spokesman.

Police on the Big Island and Maui conduct forcible blood extractions on drivers involved in crashes resulting in injury or death, according to Sgt. Dexter Veriato of the Hawai'i County Police Department and Lt. Jeffrey Tanoue of the Maui Police Department.

Acting Kaua'i Police Chief Clayton Arinaga said police on the Garden Isle also conduct forcible blood extractions on drivers involved in collisions with injuries.


State law officials say the law is clear and that every fatal collision requires the collection of a blood or urine sample from a driver refusing a field sobriety test. The controversy arises when the statute has to be interpreted by officers on the scene of a fatal or critical collision, the officials said.

"There is the authority to require someone to give up a blood sample," said state Attorney General Mark Bennett, answering a question about the law at an unrelated news conference on laws regarding highly intoxicated drivers and minors caught drinking illegally. He declined to comment on the current case.

"The law on the books is adequate and it is a matter of whether the law is being complied with and if there is enough education about how to go about drawing blood and the circumstances that require it," he said.

City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle also was asked about the lack of a sobriety test at the news conference. He declined comment, citing an ongoing criminal investigation that has not been sent to prosecutors for charges.

"There is a law that says if there is death or serious bodily injury then there is a requirement that police draw blood and there is some controversy regarding that," he said. "Again, until I look at the facts of that particular case I am not at liberty to talk about that."

However, he said, "The statute is on the books and needs to be complied with and there are certain predicates required for the use of that statute. What those predicates are and whether they were followed recently is a matter in a pending case."

Carlisle added that the issue has come up before, in the case of Clyde Arakawa, a Honolulu police officer at the time of a crash that left a woman dead.

Arakawa received a 20-year prison sentence April 22, 2003, in the death of Dana Ambrose, 19, who was killed on Oct. 7, 2000, on the Pali Highway.

Arakawa, who had consumed 11 beers in six hours, plowed into her car as it crossed School Street.


Former Honolulu police Chief Lee Donohue acknowledged that police officers gave special "courtesies" to Arakawa after KHON television news broadcast video of Arakawa walking freely around the collision scene and an officer putting his arm briefly around Arakawa.

The police union notified a lawyer, who went to the crash scene. Six officers were eventually suspended or demoted for their handling of the case.

In the Arakawa case "there was a person involved in an accident causing death or serious bodily injury who was not forced to give blood. That didn't end up ultimately having an impact on the case because there was another way to find that ... but it is a fair question that requires an answer but it is premature for me to answer at this time," Carlisle said.

Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor Christie Wilson and staff writer Treena Shapiro contributed to this report.

Reach Peter Boylan at pboylan@honoluluadvertiser.com.