Kokua Line

June Watanabe

No ticket given if
police do not see accident

Question: Where can I find government information on procedures concerning traffic accident liability and citations? A teenage driver made a left turn into oncoming traffic and our vehicles struck. Everyone at the scene, including the police officer, knew the teenager caused the accident. Of course, no uninterested parties stayed around to talk to the officer. The officer told me that HPD does not issue citations unless an officer saw the accident occur. He said that the matter is left up to the insurance companies. My insurance company confirmed the information. This policy places an undue hardship on those who are not at fault. My insurance policy repairs my vehicle and assumes that I am liable until it is determined otherwise. I have to pay the difference for a rental car and my insurance deductible. I have to wait for both sides to complete their investigations before my insurance company can recover the cost to repair my vehicle. If the insurance companies do not agree to liability, then it goes to binding arbitration. The process could take three to four months. Are there any circumstances in which HPD will issue citations for accidents that the officer did not see occur?

Answer: Police will not issue citations for any accidents they did not witness.

However, for accidents that might involve criminal charges, police will conduct an investigation, then hand over their findings to the city prosecutor for possible criminal prosecution.

For information on the laws regarding accidents and the filing of accident reports, check the Hawaii Revised Statutes, 291C, and the Traffic Code of the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu, Chapter 15, Article 5.

When officers come upon the scene of an accident, they "do not cite for anything we didn't see," affirmed Capt. Jose Gaytan of the Honolulu Police Department's Traffic Division.

However, police will issue a citation if one of the drivers involved in the accident leaves the scene; if there is a safety check, vehicle registration or driver's license violation; or there are obvious physical defects, such as a missing rear-view mirror, he said.

For an incident like yours, "in which we are only discussing who caused the collision -- who is at fault," and absent a police eyewitness, police cannot make a judgment assessing fault, he said.

"We just take both sides" of the story, plus "any information we see at the scene that might contradict one or both" accounts, Gaytan said. The police report then is submitted to insurers to figure out.

Even if the accident were serious, such as one leading to injury or death, "we still don't issue citations" unless witnessed by an officer, Gaytan said.

But depending on the facts uncovered by a police investigation, such as use of alcohol, evidence of speeding, etc., "then we consult with the prosecutors and decide what charges, if any, will be brought against the person," he said.


To whoever found my lost bank check card. I reported it lost, then Bank of Hawaii called to say someone turned it in. My sincere thanks to the lady for going out of her way to turn it in. -- H.S.M.


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