Law is changed to allow longer prison sentences
The move comes after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling bars judge-imposed terms
At the urging of the state attorney general, the city prosecutor and the county police chiefs, the Legislature reinstated yesterday a law allowing for convicted criminals to get extended sentences.
The law was needed because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional any laws requiring extended sentences to come from the judge and not a jury.
The law was changed during the Legislature's special session by amending the existing special-sentencing law.
The bill passed the Senate unanimously yesterday after earlier clearing the House. Gov. Linda Lingle signed the measure into law yesterday.
"The group of felons that now falls into that category can now receive an extended penalty," Senate President Colleen Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua) said in an interview after the session adjourned.
Extended sentences are given to people who commit especially heinous crimes, such as murdering a police officer.
The House Judiciary Committee noted in a report on the bill, House Bill 2, that the new law will require juries to "determine the facts necessary to impose extended terms of imprisonment."
The state public defender's office had raised concerns about the bill's retroactive provisions, but the House noted that the bill would protect the public by removing dangerous offenders from the general population.
The law allows criminals who have had the extended sentences overturned because of Supreme Court appeals to be resentenced to their original extended sentences.