Kansas Criminal Law: An Overview
Do you know what the Kansas Sentencing Guidelines are? Or how they, in combination with the defendant’s criminal history, may affect sentencing in any given case? What about DUI laws and associated penalties, or why it’s important to research your state’s specific criminal laws?
There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s get started.
First, it’s important to know that crime classifications – and the associated penalties or punishments – differ from state to state. If you are charged with a crime in the state of Kansas, you will be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Misdemeanor Crimes and Penalties
This classification includes less serious crimes. Examples include certain traffic violations and drug crimes, including drug possession. Misdemeanors are further grouped under class a, b, or c misdemeanors. For example, a first-offense DUI in which no one was injured might be classified as a class “b” misdemeanor, while a second offense may be fall under the class “a” category. Other crimes that may be classified as a misdemeanor include:
- Traffic violations, such as running a red light
- Disorderly conduct
- Criminal trespassing
All classes of misdemeanor crimes may involve fines as ordered by the presiding judge. The maximum penalties for an “a” class misdemeanor is up to one year of jail time. Whereas “b” class misdemeanor crimes max out at six months in a county jail. The lowest (or least severe) class of misdemeanor crimes is class “c”. This category’s penalties could involve up to one month behind bars.
Felony Crimes and Penalties
As in all states, Kansas defines a felony as a serious crime. Kansas uses a complex grid system for sentencing specific to felony convictions. According to statute, the grid assigns penalties based on the state’s law defining the crime. Also taken into consideration are both the crime’s severity and the defendant’s criminal history.
Is Marijuana Legal?
The short answer is no. Medical marijuana isn’t legal, and the state considers the drug to be a controlled substance not to be used recreationally. However, the state’s marijuana laws allow for a drug charge involving up to one ounce of personal use weed to be categorized as a misdemeanor. Penalties could include up to one year behind bars and a fine of up to $2,500.
DUI Laws and Penalties
The charge for drunk driving in Kansas is called driving under the influence (DUI). This is sometimes referred to as driving while intoxicated (DWI) in other states. State law allows for law enforcement to pull someone over for a suspected DUI if swerving or suspicious driving is observed. They then have the right to issue a field sobriety test, as well as a breathalyzer or chemical blood test. No reasonable suspicion is required to stop you if you drive through a sobriety check point, however.
Penalties vary based on your blood alcohol content (BAC) level and on your history and how many DUIs you have on record. A DUI first offense, for example, could include:
- Two-day mandatory jail time
- Mandatory community service of 100 hours
- Mandated self-paid treatment program
- Fines of $500 to $1,000
Whereas a second or third offense DUI may include more severe penalties such as a longer jail sentence, license suspension and steeper fines. Drunk driving offenses are elevated to “aggravated” if a child under the age of 14 is in the vehicle. It may also be aggravated if the accused drunk driver is under the age of 21. If you are charged with a DUI, you will need a strong DUI defense to keep your record clear.
Searching for the Right Legal Representation
It’s important to find an experienced criminal defense attorney when facing criminal charges, and time is usually of the essence. Here are a few general suggestions on what to look for as a guide for your online search:
- Does this lawyer have a strong criminal defense practice handling criminal cases of the same type?
- Do the law firm’s practice areas meet your needs?
- Does the law firm offer a free consultation? Do you trust the legal advice they give you during that free consultation?
- Does the law office highlight their experience as trial lawyers?
- How many years of experience does the criminal defense lawyer have?
- How many jury trials have they handled?
Your case may be resolved without the need for a trial by jury, but it may also be a good idea to choose a criminal defense attorney with trial experience, particularly if you are accused of crimes of a more serious nature or those that may result in additional legal issues. Once you have secured legal representation, you’ll have the knowledge and experience of your lawyer to guide you through the state’s criminal justice process.
If you are located in the Kansas City metropolitan area, you will want to make sure you seek out a criminal defense lawyer that has years of experience handling cases in the state in which you are charged, whether it is Kansas or Missouri. Whether you are in Wichita, Topeka, another city in the state of Kansas or in a rural area, find an attorney that practices in your geographic area. You need to feel confident in any attorney-client relationship you have with your chosen representation.
Your Rights Matter
Educating yourself about your rights and the state’s criminal justice system are important. Even for the most serious of charges, the legal standard is that you are held innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.