In Kansas, felonies are crimes that are punishable by a state prison term of one year or more. Most states categorize their felonies into groups or classes (such as Class A), assign sentences or ranges to each class, and place each felony crime within a class. Or, the state provides for a penalty on a one-by-one basis, to each crime. Kansas, however, uses a complicated grid system to determine felony sentencing.
In contrast, Kansas’s laws categorize misdemeanors (less serious crimes) by class. The most serious misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in county jail.
For more information on misdemeanors in Kansas, see Kansas Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences.
Judges in Kansas have discretion to choose a sentence based on the state’s sentencing guidelines.
The sentencing guidelines are a grid that:
- divides crimes by severity level (the vertical axis of the grid, numeric levels), and
- categorizes defendants by their prior criminal records (the horizontal axis, levels A-I).
Crimes and severity
Crimes are divided into drug and nondrug offenses. Nondrug offenses are divided into severity levels 1-10, and drug offenses are divided into severity levels 1-5.
For criminal history designations, level A is the most serious, for defendants with three or more convictions for “person” felonies (crimes committed against people). Level I is the least serious designation, for defendants with no criminal record or only one misdemeanor conviction.
(Kan. Stat. Ann. §§ 21-6804, 21-6805.)
Understanding the grid
Each section of the gird gives a range of three sentences: an aggravated sentence, a standard sentence, and a mitigated sentence. The standard sentence will usually be imposed, although the judge may choose an aggravated or mitigated sentence if the case warrants it.
For example, rape is a severity level 1 felony. If the defendant has no prior criminal record, then the crime is punishable by 147, 155, or 165 months in prison.
If the crime was particularly cruel or violent, the judge may impose the aggravated sentence (165 months). Otherwise, the court would likely impose the middle sentence (155 months). A defendant with an A-level criminal history who is convicted of a particularly brutal rape could face up to 653 months (over 50 years) in prison.
For more information on penalties for sex crimes in Kansas, see Kansas Sexual Battery Laws.
Learning the sentence for a particular crime
In order to know the possible sentence for any crime in Kansas, you will need to know the crime’s severity level. This information is found in the statute that defines the crime. For example, voluntary manslaughter is a severity level 3, person felony (this means that the severity level is 3, and if this defendant commits another crime in Kansas, it will count as a person felony for purposes of sentencing on the new conviction). The eventual sentence that will be imposed will depend, however, on where the crime fits along the horizontal axis--the one that takes the defendant's past criminal history into account.
(Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-5404.)
Some crimes in Kansas are designated as off-grid felonies. Most off-grid felonies are very serious crimes, punishable by the death penalty or life imprisonment. For example, rape of a child is an off-grid felony, punishable by life in prison.
(Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-6806.)
In addition to a prison term, the court may also impose a fine as part of a felony conviction.
The court may impose a fine of up to $500,000 on defendants convicted of:
- an off-grid felony crime, or
- severity level 1-2 drug crimes.
The court may impose a fine of up to $300,000 on a defendant convicted of:
- level 1-5 nondrug crimes, or
- level 3-4 drug crimes.
Finally, for any other felony, the court may impose a fine of up to $100,000.
(Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-6611.)
Statutes of Limitations
Statutes of limitations are time limits on criminal prosecutions. The statute of limitations begins to “run” when the crime is committed. The most serious crimes in Kansas, such as murder and terrorism, have no statute of limitations.
For more information, see Kansas Criminal Statute of Limitations.
Obtaining Legal Assistance
Kansas’s sentencing guidelines are complicated and are best understood and tackled with the help of a professional. If you are charged with a felony in Kansas, you should talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney will be able to explain how your case is likely to fare in court and defend your rights.