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Question: Over a year ago I received a citation that I challenged in court, resulting in a reduction to a much lesser charge. About a month ago my auto insurance company notified me that my premium would be rising almost 400% for my six-month renewal, because the company reviewed my record and found this citation. I have spoken with the company about the circumstances, and sent a copy of my traffic abstract, which shows the reduction to the lesser charge. Sorry, says the company; we go by the original charge on the citation. They also said that I could get the charge removed from my record, as other policyholders have done, which would result in a return to my previous premium. So here’s my question: What steps can I take to have this traffic record removed?
Answer: We contacted Jan Kagehiro, spokeswoman for the state Judiciary, who explained how certain court records can be sealed. However, she said that’s not possible in your case (you had provided the citation number so she could follow up). Here’s her full response:
“The ability to seal a court record depends on how the case started and ended. In a case where there was an arrest but no conviction, a motorist must first apply for an expungement certificate, and then request that the court record be sealed. In a case where there was no arrest and no conviction, a motorist may request that court record be sealed without an expungement certificate. In a case where there was conviction on a lesser charge, the court cannot seal the court record.
“In the specific case you referenced, court records show that the motorist was originally charged with the petty misdemeanor offense of leaving the scene of an accident involving damage to a vehicle or other property driven by or attended to by a person. Court records further show that the motorist later admitted to a less serious offense, leaving the scene of an accident involving damage to an unattended vehicle or other property, which is a traffic infraction. As the case was not dismissed, the case cannot be removed from the motorist’s record.”
Q: What’s that website where you can look up charities? I don’t want to pay a fee just to see whether a group is registered.
A: There are several, including ones associated with the state Attorney General’s Office. Here are a few options:
>> charity.ehawaii.gov or ag.hawaii.gov/tax, both linked to the Tax and Charities Division. The addresses have security features and governmental functions. At either site you can search for Hawaii-registered charitable organizations and charitable sales promotions; charities also can register, submit forms and pay annual filing fees.
>> www.charitynavigator.org, active for two decades, rates 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations based on financial efficiency, accountability and transparency to instill confidence (or not) in potential donors. This site rates charities nationwide, but search results can be filtered by state. Four stars is the highest rating.
>> You also can use the “Tax Exempt Organization Search Tool” on the Internal Revenue Service’s website, www.irs.gov. However, be forewarned that some data may not be available or may be out of date, because the IRS is way behind processing paper forms filed by nonprofit organizations. “We are still processing paper-filed 990 series received April 2020 and later,” the agency says on its website.
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Kokua Line: How do I get rid of a ticket that raised my car insurance?