Kansas Criminal Defense Law Guide
Charged with a crime in Kansas? Don't go it alone....
Use this Kansas Criminal Defense Law Guide to help get you started.
Otherwise, any misstep on your part, before you find legal representation, can severely limit your ability to win your case.
First off, don't talk to the cops, or the detectives. Worst thing you can do is "explain your side of the story" - save it for your
attorney. Do not apologize for your actions, it will be considered a confession. Enough about what not to do....
Remain calm and make the first available appointment with your attorney. It is preferable to use a lawyer you have used before, who is
familiar with you and that you are comfortable with. If that person doesn't handle criminal defense law matters, request a referral.
Prepare for the appointment by gathering the names and contact information
for any witnesses to the incident at hand. Do this before your memory fades, while it is still fresh on your mind. Deliver this information
to your lawyer.
What if you don't have an attorney? You can probably handle the initial proceeding by yourself ("pro se"), depending on the severity
level of the charge. If the judge gives you time to get an attorney, do so immediately. If you appear again if front of that same judge without an attorney,
it is highly likely you will be taken into custody. (That is a polite way of saying, "thrown in jail").
For now, read as much as you can about the charge, the law, evidence and procedure in order for you to have a more meaningful discussion with your attorney,
or to help get you through the system alone, if the court lets you do that.
In order to know how best to proceed, your attorney will need to know what you are
charged wtih and where you are charged, so if you have any paperwork, gather it together. Also, if you are charged with a felony, your attorney will need to know
all your prior convictions. More on that later....
As an aside, let me first explain, that while this Kansas Criminal Defense Law Guide, is directed toward defendants charged with crimes in Kansas, some of the basic prinicples will apply to other jurisdictions, although it will not substitute for legal counsel. Also, this guide is authored by two middle-aged attorneys with over thirty years cumulative experience. We've been through hundreds (maybe thousands?) of criminal cases. We can and will help you if need be. For now, this guide is here to assist you. That goes for you lawyers, too, who have come here for answers. (I always search other lawyers' websites when I need an answer to something outside my field.)
We will start with the basics. The most basic thing to understand, which crops up quite a bit, is the difference between civil and criminal law. A lot of people already know but for those who don't, here is the explanation:
Criminal law is when a government entity brings a lawsuit against a person alleging they have violated a criminal law. The person (or entity) who files the lawsuit is the Plaintiff and that applies in both civil and criminal law. The person who gets sued is always the Defendant and if they are sued by the Government for a violation of criminal law then that is criminal law. If a private citizen brings a lawsuit then that is a civil lawsuit.
The criminal law that is alleged to be violated is usually going to be a city ordinance or a state statute and that particular law is going to determine whether you have a traffic ticket, misdemeanor or felony. The government entity will be represented by their legal department, usually the municipal court prosecutor or an attorney employed by the District Attorney's office who represents the "State of Kansas" for violations occurring within their specific county. Or on some occassions the Attorney General's office will represent the State but that will not usually change the nature of the case.
Now, having established that a certain matter is one of criminal law, then the next step is to determine the severity of the charge because that will determine the range of punishment you can expect to face if you get convicted. Kansas criminal charges break down into three basic categories: felonies, misdemeanors and traffic tickets. If time permits, I'll post some of the individual criminal laws here on this website for your reading enjoyment, but for now, I'll summarize the range of punishment based on those three categories.
If you are unsure which group you fall into, look at your paperwork. You should have a charging "Information" which describes, with particularity, which statute the government alleges you have violated and it will state whether it is a felony or misdemeanor, what level of crime it is, and whether it is consider a "person" or "nonperson crime".
If you are charged with or convicted of a felony, this is the most severe type of case and you could face prison time. Unless you have an off-grid felony, such as a DUI, you will be sentenced according to the Kansas Sentencing Guidelines, using your criminal history score. This will determine whether you serve prison time and if so, for how long. For more information about this, please go to the Sentencing tab on the right of this page.
The middle category of criminal severity is the misdemeanor range. Misdemeanors in the class A category carry a 12 month maximum sentence. Misdemeanors in the class B category carry a 6 month maximum sentence. Unless you are a repeat offender, are pending a more severe charge or other unusual circumstances apply, you will typically be placed on probation in lieu of serving your underlying sentence. If you violate the terms of your probation, you will serve your sentence in the county jail. Please see the misdemenor tab on the right side of this page for more information.
Sometimes in law, there are more exceptions than rules. DUI is a charge that stands alone and doesn't fit nicely into the rules. It can be charged as a misdemeanor with a very specific range of punishment or an off-grid felony. If you get charged with dui, the dui statute outlines the punishment associated with a conviction for that charge. Dui will be charged as a misdemenor for the first two charges and as a felony for the third and subsequent charges. The punishment for each phase is outlined in the statute and if time permits I'll post a separate page to break down each phase.
For traffic tickets, the range of punishment is most likely going to be a monetary fine with some jail time for those with the most severe or repeated violations. A lot of people don't want to deal with the unpleasant nature of traffic court so they skip it. That will only make matters worse. A warrant will be issued for your arrest. You will then be assessed a warrant fee on top of your other fines. If you are pulled over for another traffic violation you will be taken into custody (thrown in jail) and then you will have to post bond to get out. Bottom line - do not avoid going to court. If you need extra time to get a lawyer, go to court and ask the judge for more time to get a lawyer.
Also, there are going to be a lot of lawyers at the courthouse waiting for traffic court to start. Don't be shy - ask them to help you. That's what they are there for. If you are unsure of what to do, try this: Approach persons who are dressed in suits. First, get their attention. Then render a greeting and request assistance. Like this, "Excuse me, Ma'am. Hi. I was wondering if you could help me with my traffic ticket." That should get a dialogue started and that attorney will assist you from there. Remember, this website is here to get you started and help further your understanding and get you through the criminal justice system. It is not a substitute for legal counsel who can tailor the advice to meet your specific needs.
If you have a question you would like to ask one of our firm attorneys, I will prepare a question form to place on this website. Any communications will be held in strict confidence. We will be in trial next week and not available to answer the form questions so it isn't available just yet. Please note our firm's attorneys are licensed in Kansas and Missouri. We belong to a national association of criminal defense lawyers and can give you a referral if you have a matter pending outside our area.
The most important thing is to tell your lawyer your court date. If you don't know your court date, contact the courthouse in the place you got the ticket or the charge and ask them. All the Kansas Courthouses have criminal division clerks that can assist you. Go to the Court tab at the right to find the phone number.
- How to Get Out of Jail
- To get out of jail after an arrest you will need to know a few things about bail: how much is it, how do I pay, do I have to pay it, can I get it lowered, how is it set, etc. This is a short guide.
- Kansas Traffic Tickets
- Even minor speeding tickets can have a big impact on your driving privileges and the cost to insure your vehicle. Get your attorney to keep the violations on your record to a minimum.
- DUI (aka Driving Under The Influence)
- Legal defenses to DUI are complex. The charge starts both a criminal action and an administrative action and the Department of Motor Vehicles. Request an admin hearing immediately to challenge this.
- ASSAULT AND BATTERY
- Assault is the intent to cause harmful and/or offensive physical injury to
- Domestic Violence in Kansas
- Domestic violence is physically abusing, sexually abusing or imprisoning a
- Kansas Stalking
- Stalking is when a person intentionally maliciously and
- Bad Checks
- 21-3707: Giving a worthless check. (a) Giving a worthless check is the making, drawing, issuing or delivering or causing or directing the making, drawing, issuing or delivering of any check, order or
- Drug Possession and Other Related Drug Crimes
- Possession of cocaine or possession of methamphetamine is a Level Four Drug crime punishable by a maximum prison time of 42 months with a maximum fine of $100,000. That is simple possession.
- Guns, Illegal and Concealed Weapons
- The National Firearms Act prohibits civilians from owning machine guns,
- Kansas Theft Charge
- A Kansas theft charge is a felony if the underlying value of the item taken is $1,000 or more. Otherwise it is a misdemeanor charge. The defense is most likely to vigorously attack the value evidence.
- Making, altering or endorsing a written instrument while making it look like someone else did it constitutes the crime of forgery under Kansas law. It doesn't matter if the
- Burglary, breaking and entering, residential burglary
- 21-5807. Burglary. Burglary is knowingly and without authority entering into or remaining within any:
- Robbery and Aggravated Robbery
- 21-3426:Robbery is the taking of property by force or by threat of bodily harm to any person.
- Per 21-3420, in Kansas, kidnapping is the taking or confining of any person, accomplished by force, threat or deception, with the intent to hold such person:
- Kansas Sentencing
- Kansas courts sentence convicted defendants based on the severity level of the conviction and the defendant's criminal history.
- Expungement of Kansas Convictions
- Kansas law allows expungement of criminal convictions after a five year waiting periord for most crimes. The most serious of crimes do not qualify for expungement.
- Probation for Kansas Criminal Convictions
- Probation instead of prison is a sentencing option for those convicted of crimes in Kansas. Probation is granted to some defendants because they are entitled to it as a matter of law .
- What do I do about my Kansas criminal court case?
- Appear on time in Kansas Criminal Court and respectfully ask the judge for more time to get a lawyer if need be.