Anytime you are facing serious felony charges, it is absolutely essential to know what potential sentencing risk you face. In the state of Kansas, the imposition of a sentence for a felony conviction is controlled by the Kansas Sentencing Guidelines. The ‘goal’ of the legislature in adopting the guidelines is to ensure consistency and uniformity in the imposition of sentences for comparable offenses when committed by similar offenders.
If you are convicted of a felony crime in the state of Kansas, your sentence is determined by two separate but closely related factors. The first factor that contributes to your ultimate sentence is the Severity Level of the felony offense you have committed.
In Kansas, felony offenses are classified by Severity Level. Non-drug felony offenses ranging from theft and criminal damage to property all the way up to rape and murder are classified as Level 1 through Level 10 offenses, with Level 1 representing the most serious “grid” offenses and Level 10 representing the least serious “grid” offenses.
Felony offenses involving possession, distribution, cultivation and manufacture of controlled substances are classified as Level 1 through Level 5 drug offenses. Just as with non-drug offenses, Level 1 drug offenses are the most serious and Level 5 offenses are the least serious felony drug offenses.
To determine your potential sentence, you must first find the row corresponding with the Severity Level of the Offense you are charged with on either the Non-Drug Sentencing Grid or the Drug Sentencing Grid. Then find the column of that grid that corresponds with your Criminal History Score. The point on the Sentencing Grid where that row and column intersect will provide 3 numbers which represent the number of months the Court could order you to spend in prison if convicted of the felony crime charged.
For example, Defendant #1 has one prior misdemeanor conviction for DUI providing him with a Criminal History Score “I” and is charged with Sale of more than 3.5 grams, but less than 100 grams of Cocaine, a Severity Level 3 Drug Felony Offense. By looking at the Drug Sentencing Grid, he is facing a sentencing range of 46-49-51 months in prison.
For another example, Defendant #2 has 1 prior “Person” Felony conviction for burglary of a dwelling, but no other convictions. This single prior conviction places him in Criminal History Category “D” for purposes of sentence calculation. He is accused of Involuntary Manslaughter for a death that occurred in an automobile accident wherein it is alleged that he was under the influence of alcohol. This is a Severity Level 4 Person Felony Offense. By consulting the Non-Drug Sentencing Grid, we see that he is facing a potential sentence of 62-66-69 months in prison if convicted of this very serious felony offense.
In Kansas, felony convictions are deemed to be “Presumptive Probation” “Presumptive Prison” and “Border Box.” If a defendant is convicted of or pleads guilty to a Presumptive Probation offense, the legislature “presumes” that the defendant is entitled to a contract of probation. The defendant only serves the underlying sentence if he or she violates the terms and conditions of the probation contract.
By contrast, if a defendant is convicted of or pleads guilty to a Presumptive Prison offense, the legislature “presumes” that the defendant is not entitled to a contract of probation and must serve the underlying sentence. The only way the defendant can avoid prison is if the Court formally “departs” from the sentencing guidelines by finding “substantial and compelling reasons” to grant probation.
If a defendant is convicted of or pleads guilty to a “Border Box” offense, the legislature “presumes” that the defendant is not entitled to a contract of probation and must serve the underlying sentence. However, the Court is allowed to grant probation at the request or agreement of the parties as long as the Court is satisfied that a program is available to the defendant that will ensure community safety interests by promoting the defendant’s rehabilitation and reducing the likelihood of recidivism.
Finally, in any felony case wherein the Court grants a request for probation (regardless of presumption), the Court is authorized to order up to 60 days custody as a prerequisite to probation in order to impose upon the defendant the seriousness of the offense and the opportunity for probation. This is commonly referred to as “Shock Time.”
Any time a Judge sentences multiple felony counts within the same case, he can order that the underlying sentences run “consecutive” to one another, meaning ‘back-to-back’ or he may order that the sentences run “concurrent” with one another, meaning that credit for all sentences is awarded simultaneously.
If a Judge does choose to sentence multiple counts within the same case “consecutively” to one another, the total term of custody cannot exceed twice the high-end term for the most serious count in the case (the “controlling count”). Let’s look back at the example for Defendant #1 with a Criminal History Score “I” and assume he has been convicted of 3 separate counts of sale of narcotics. The “high-end” of his potential sentence for a single count is 16 months. Thus, even if convicted of all 3 counts and sentenced consecutively, the maximum term of custody he faces is 32 months in prison.
However, one interesting ‘wrinkle’ with regard to sentencing in Kansas is that the limit on “consecutive” sentences applies only to Felony convictions. If you are charged with and convicted of any Misdemeanor counts in a case, the judge may sentence all of the misdemeanor counts to run consecutive to each other and consecutive to any term of custody on the Felony charges without violating the maximum consecutive sentence rule.
Any time you are facing serious felony charges or misdemeanor offenses for which jail time may be imposed, make the time necessary to meet with an experienced criminal defense attorney before you make any decisions about how to resolve the charges against you.
“The Importance of Understanding Kansas Sentencing Guidelines “