Schools grounds are off limits after 10 p.m.
In December, my friend had car trouble and had parked his car in the Maemae School parking lot in Nuuanu. He asked me to drive him home to Kailua so he could pick up a part to fix the car. We were gone about an hour. I had just turned into the lot about 10:15 p.m., when a police officer pulled in behind me. Because he was right behind my car, I turned off my engine. The officer didn't ask us why we were there -- just asked for our IDs and said, "I'll be right back with your tickets." We were in shock. The officer came back and, before handing over both tickets, said, "You're out of your area." I felt that was snide and uncalled for. We found out we were cited for a criminal offense. Only afterward, we found out we were not supposed to be on the school property after 10 p.m. I want to know why the officer did not ask why we were there or tell us what the violation was, especially since it was a criminal violation. And what did it matter that we were "out of our area?"
Answer: This turned out to be a matter of you said/he said, with the officer disputing your version of the events.
But, first, there are signs "clearly posted" at the school, warning people that being on the school grounds after 10 p.m. without authorization would constitute trespassing, said Capt. Frank Fujii, spokesman for the Honolulu Police Department.
You and your friend were charged under Section 708-813 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, which says a person may be charged with first-degree criminal trespass if he or she enters or remains unlawfully on any public or private school property "after reasonable warning or request to leave by school authorities or a police officer." However, it goes on to say that no such warning or request is necessary between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
According to the officer's supervisor, Maemae School is on the officer's beat and "he continually makes checks of the area every work night and regularly cites vehicles he finds in the parking lot after hours," Fujii said. "This is no new law about being on school grounds after 2200 hours (10 p.m.)"
Because of problems with burglary and graffiti on school properties, the officer's action against you "was definitely preventive in nature and certainly not out of the ordinary or extreme" as suggested, he said.
The officer's version of events, which he said he remembers "quite clearly" because he keeps detailed records, is that he had driven by Maemae School several times that night and noted a single car in the parking lot.
He said he had just checked nearby Puunui Park and when he returned, he saw two vehicles in the parking lot, with a male and female in one car. He noted the time as 10:30 p.m., not 10:15 p.m.
He said he asked the man what they were doing there. The man responded that he had left the car there while he and his friend went somewhere to get something to eat and now they were just talking.
There was no mention of car trouble, according to the officer. He said he informed the two that they were not allowed on the school grounds after 10 p.m. and that there were signs posted to that effect. He said he asked for IDs and informed them that he would be issuing citations for the violation.
"He said he told them, 'You would rather be cited than arrested, wouldn't you?''' Fujii said. "They said, 'yes.' The officer also said he did not make any remarks about them being out of their area."
Fujii said if anyone has a complaint or concerns about how they were treated by an officer or why they may have been issued a citation, to call the beat sergeant at the police substation in the area or to just call him at 529-3550.
To two women who I hope see this and maybe think twice before doing what they did again. About 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15, the two of you decided to cross the south-bound lanes of Fort Weaver Road, in front of the 7-Eleven at Renton Road. Despite the crosswalk and signal not 100 feet away, you walked out in front of oncoming traffic, causing everyone to stop. Then you did the same thing across the north-bound lanes to get to the bus stop, even though there was no bus waiting or even approaching. Woman #1, you hurried at first, then slowed to a walk when you got about halfway across. Woman #2, you have my complete contempt, because not only did you slow to a walk part way across, you also dragged your child with you. Since you both obviously don't care about yourselves, next time think about the driver who may end up hitting you and have to carry the guilt, or about the child that you endangered along with yourselves. It's amazing, with all the coverage of pedestrian accidents, that people still continue to do such stupid things. -- Joseph Clark, Ewa Beach
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