Kansas Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences

In Kansas, a person facing felony charges can be looking at one year in prison and up to life. Learn how felony sentencing works in Kansas.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated November 20, 2023

In Kansas, felonies are crimes that are punishable by a state prison term of more than one year. Crimes punishable by jail time of a year or less are misdemeanors.

Most states categorize their felonies into levels or classes (such as Class A) and assign sentences to each class. Other states impose penalties on a crime-by-crime basis. Kansas, however, takes a different approach. Felony sentencing in Kansas involves several factors: severity level, type of offense, sentencing grids, offender criminal history, and the circumstances of the crime.

Read on to learn how judges determine and impose felony sentences in Kansas.

How Kansas Classifies Felony Crimes

Kansas divides most felony crimes into felony (non-drug) offenses and felony drug offenses. The type of offense determines what sentencing grid to use. (A few felonies are designated "off-grid" or "non-grid.")

Felony Types and Severity Levels

Each "grid" felony specifies a severity level and, for non-drug offenses, whether it's a person or nonperson offense. When looking up a crime, the law will say something like the following.

  • Aggravated robbery is a severity level 3, person felony.
  • Arson is a severity level 7, nonperson felony.
  • Manufacturing meth is a drug severity level 4 if the quantity is less than 1 gram.

Felony (non-drug) offenses. The first two examples are non-drug offenses. For each felony (non-drug) offense, the law specifies a severity level of 1 to 10 (one being the most serious and ten the least) and a designation as a person or non-person offense. (Here, robbery is a person offense and arson is a nonperson offense.)

Drug offenses. The third example is a drug offense. The law ranks drug offenses by severity levels 1 to 5 (one being the most serious and five the least).

Off-grid and non-grid felonies. 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. Some felony crimes carry a specific sentence in statute—these crimes are non-grid crimes.

Examples of Felony Crimes and Severity Levels in Kansas

Here are some examples of felony (non-drug) crimes and their severity levels and designations:

  • Intentional second-degree murder: severity level 1, person felony
  • Voluntary manslaughter: severity level 3, person felony
  • Aggravated battery: severity level 4, person felony
  • Theft of property ($100,000 or more): severity level 5, non-person felony
  • Burglary of a dwelling: severity level 7, person felony
  • Incitement to riot: severity level 8, person felony
  • Theft of property ($1,500 to $25,000): severity level 9, non-person felony

Here are some examples of drug felony severity levels:

  • Sale of narcotics (1 kilogram or more): drug severity level 1
  • Manufacturing of a controlled substance (not meth or fentanyl): drug severity level 2
  • Sale of hallucinogenic drugs (3.5 to 100 grams): drug severity level 3
  • Possession of opioids: drug severity level 5

(Kan. Stat. §§ 21-5403, 21-5404, 21-5413, 21-5703, 21-5705, 21-5706, 21-5801, 21-5807, 21-6201 (2023).)

Penalties for Felonies in Kansas

Kansas law sets a minimum and maximum penalty by severity level. The range in each severity level can span years or decades. The judge will look to a sentencing grid (discussed below) to determine what sentence to hand down within each range.

Penalties for Felony (Non-Drug) Crimes by Severity Level

  • Severity level 1: 147 to 653 months (approx. 12 to 54 years)
  • Severity level 2: 109 to 498 months (approx. 9 to 41 years)
  • Severity level 3: 55 to 247 months (approx. 4.5 to 20.5 years)
  • Severity level 4: 38 to 172 months (approx. 3 to 14 years)
  • Severity level 5: 31 to 136 months (approx. 2.5 to 10.5 years)
  • Severity level 6: 17 to 46 months (approx. 1.5 to 4 years)
  • Severity level 7: 11 to 34 months (approx. 1 to 3 years)
  • Severity level 8: 7 to 23 months (approx. 7 months to 2 years)
  • Severity level 9: 5 to 17 months (approx. 5 months to 1.5 years)
  • Severity level 10: 5 to 13 months (approx. 5 months to 1 year)

Penalties for Felony Drug Crimes by Severity Level

  • Drug severity level 1: 138 to 204 months (approx. 11.5 to 17 years)
  • Drug severity level 2: 92 to 144 months (approx. 7.5 to 12 years)
  • Drug severity level 3: 46 to 83 months (approx. 4 to 7 years)
  • Drug severity level 4: 14 to 51 months (approx. 1 to 4.25 years)
  • Drug severity level 5: 10 to 42 months (approx. 10 months to 3.5 years)

(Kan. Stat. §§ 21-6804, 21-6805 (2023).)

How Felony Sentencing Works in Kansas

After a conviction, the judge will hand down the offender's sentence, which can occur immediately or in a separate sentencing hearing. The judge can impose one or more of the following options:

  • incarceration in prison (using the sentencing grid)
  • probation (using the sentencing grid)
  • fines, fees, and victim restitution
  • assignment to a community correctional services program (intensive supervision program with counseling)
  • participation in a specialty court program
  • assignment to house arrest or community service, or
  • attendance at a substance abuse program.

Below we get into the grids.

(Kan. Stat. § 21-6604 (2023).)

Understanding the Felony Sentencing Grids in Kansas

Kansas uses sentencing grids to determine an offender's punishment. Sentencing grids aim to provide consistency and fairness in sentencing without regard to race, gender, wealth, or residence. The grids base sentencing on the offense severity level and the offender's criminal history. Two offenders who commit the same crime and have the same criminal history should receive similar penalties.

Sentencing Grids for Felony (Non-Drug) Crimes and Felony Drug Crimes

Kansas uses two sentencing grids—one for felony (non-drug) crimes and one for drug crimes. On the grids, the vertical axis represents the severity level of the crime (1 to 10) and the horizontal axis lists the criminal history (from no prior offenses to three or more prior person offenses). The discussion below highlights the felony (non-drug) grid, but the same principles apply to the drug grid.

How the Sentencing Grids Work

The grids work like this: Based on the offense severity level (say level 2) and the offender's criminal history (say category D), you'll find the appropriate sentencing box (Box 2D). The sentence specified in Box 2D ranges from 181 to 200 months (15 to 17 years) in prison. The judge can hand down any sentence within this range. Check out the grid here (scroll down on the page for the appropriate grid).

If the offense severity increases to level 1, the possible sentence will increase. Or if the offender has a lengthy criminal past (say three or more person felonies), the sentence will also increase. And the reverse is true—if the offense severity goes down or the criminal history decreases, the sentencing range will also decrease.

Aggravating and Mitigating Factors in Sentencing

Most sentences will fall somewhere near the middle of the range provided in the box (16 years in the above example). But the range allows the judge to impose a sentence at the upper limit if the crime involved aggravating circumstances (say a vulnerable victim or a cruel act) or at the lower limit if mitigating circumstances existed (say the offender played a minor role in the crime).

Sentencing to Prison or Probation

The grid also designates whether the judge should sentence the offender to prison or probation—called the sentencing disposition. All severity level 1 crimes (like rape and murder) impose prison sentences. Most severity level 7 to 10 crimes (such as theft) presume the judge should sentence the offender to probation rather than prison. A few crimes fall in between prison and probation on the grid. In these cases (called border boxes), the judge can impose either disposition. (More on probation below.)

(Kan. Stat. §§ 21-5404, 21-6804, 21-6805, 21-6806, 21-6815 (2023).)

How Prison and Probation Sentences Work in Kansas

As discussed above, the offender will face a prison sentence or probation sentence depending on the offense and criminal history placement on the grid. Here's how the judge decides these sentences.

Prison Sentence

When imposing a prison sentence, the judge will set (1) a maximum sentence within the grid-box range and (2) a maximum amount of "good time" that can be earned. An offender earns good time by avoiding disciplinary actions while serving the prison sentence. If an offender earns good time, that amount will be subtracted from the maximum sentence. The law caps good time at 15% to 20% of the maximum sentence.

Kansas does not use a parole system, which would require the offender to apply to a parole board for release from prison. In Kansas, once the judge hands down the sentence, offenders know the minimum and maximum amount of prison time they face. So for a 10-year sentence, an offender who serves prison time without any disciplinary problems could shave off two years of the sentence. This offender knows they are serving 8 to 10 years.

(Kan. Stat. § 21-6821 (2023).)

Probation Sentence

Probation refers to putting prison time on hold and allowing the offender to serve most of the sentence in the community. Probation doesn't necessarily mean that the offender completely avoids time behind bars. As a condition of probation, the judge can order an offender to serve jail time. Other probation conditions might include reporting to a probation officer, abstaining from alcohol or drugs, completing community service, remaining on home arrest, or staying away from victims. While on probation, the offender's prison sentence remains on the table. The judge can revoke probation and send the offender to prison for violating probation.

(Kan. Stat. §§ 21-6607, 21-6608 (2023).)

What Are the Statutes of Limitations for Felonies in Kansas?

Statutes of limitations set time limits for a prosecutor to file criminal charges in a case. For most felonies, the prosecutor must file the charges within five years of the crime being committed. The most serious crimes in Kansas, such as murder, rape, and childhood sexual abuse crime, have no statute of limitations, meaning a prosecutor can file charges at any time.

(Kan. Stat. § 21-5107 (2023).)

Obtaining Legal Assistance

Kansas' sentencing grids can be complicated and are best understood and tackled with the help of a professional. If you are charged with a felony in Kansas, talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney will explain how your case is likely to fare in court and defend your rights.

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