Senate Bill 395: Relating to Disorderly Conduct

Picture of Senator Ron Kouchi

By: J. S.

Hawaii Senate Bill 395 relates to disorderly conduct. Specifically, it amends the offense of disorderly conduct to include engaging in conduct with the intent to convey certain false or misleading information. It is the companion bill to House Bill 169. Senate Bill 395 was introduced into the Hawaii State Senate on January 22, 2021 by Senator Kouchi. After passing its first reading the bill was sent to the Senate Committee on Judiciary for review. The bill has stayed with the Committee since January 25. You can read the full Senate Bill here.

Section 1 of SB395 states that “The legislature finds that the conveyance of messages containing threats of violence, mass violence, or destruction of property, using various media including the internet, is a growing concern. These messages are often intended as pranks, or are intended to disrupt services such as the operations of educational facilities, and result in the unnecessary expenditure of significant resources by law enforcement agencies. Due to earlier court rulings, the Hawaii Revised Statutes do not criminalize the making of false or misleading threats. Accordingly, the purpose of this Act is to amend the offense of disorderly conduct to include engaging in conduct with the intent to convey certain false or misleading information.”

The bill would add the offense of “engaging in conduct with the intent to convey certain false or misleading information” to a list of otherwise fairly straight forward offenses listed as misdemeanors in Hawaii. Current misdemeanors include physical actions such as engaging in fighting or threatening, making an offensive amount of noise, and creating hazardous conditions, among other things. The wording of SB395 appears to be somewhat open to interpretation. What will be considered “certain false or misleading” information, and who will determine the interpretation? Unlike actions that are witnessed and have immediate effects, online threats and statements interpreted as threats are much more difficult to distinguish. The amendment would be the first to include language about misleading information distributed online. Currently in Hawaii, citizens found guilty of petty misdemeanor offenses can be fined up to $1,000 or receive up to a 30 day jail sentence.

SB395 is currently with the Senate Committee on Judiciary. The committee is headed by Karl Rhoads of Senate District 13, and Jarrett Keohokalole of Senate District 24. Citizens interested in communicating their opposition to, or support of this Senate Bill can do so in different ways.

Citizens interested in submitting testimony for or against SB 395 can do so by visiting the State of Hawaii website, capitol.hawaii.gov and creating a free account. Once a free account has been created and a user has signed in, there is a homepage button listed for “Testimony”, as well as hearing notifications and measure tracking.  The search bar on the left hand side of the home page can be used to search “SB395” and find the overview of the bill, as well as a button to submit testimony. 
Apart from submitting testimony, another impactful way to share your concerns and opinions on any bill is by contacting your District representatives either by phone, email or letter. Those interested in watching the live hearing for this and other bills can do so by going to the capitol.hawaii.gov website and accessing the State House and Senate Youtube channels.