Kansas judges sentence Defendants based on the Kansas Sentencing Guidelines which computes the sentence based on a combination of the severity level of the current conviction and the Defendant's criminal history.
After a finding of guilt, based on either a plea or a verdict, the court orders a presentence investigation report or "PSI". The report is provided to the attorneys prior to the sentencing hearing and states the particular criminal statute upon which the conviction is based, the severity level of the conviction, lists the defendant's prior convictions, the standard sentencing range as well as any presumption for prison or probation and any special rules that apply.
The defense attorney must verify the findings of the PSI with the defendant prior to the sentencing hearing and file any appropriate motions for relief. If there are any convictions listed on the criminal history that the defendant does not acknowledge are his then a certified record must be requested in writing from the prosecutor prior to the sentencing hearing in order not to prejudice the defendant's right to challenge the criminal history score (which is based on these prior convictions).
The defense attorney must also examine the PSI to see if the defendant has any grounds to depart from the sentencing range stated in the guidelines.
It is vitally important to know your criminal history score from the very beginning of a criminal charge. Each conviction will be derived from the violation of a criminal statute which must state the severity level (1 through 10) and type (person or nonperson) of crime involved in addition to whether the crime involves drugs.
To illustrate this point, you must see the following Kansas Sentencing Guidelines Grids. The first grid has ten rows or "severity levels" and is used for non-drug crimes. The second grid is used to sentence those convicted of drug crimes and it has only four rows or "severity levels". The horizontal rows have roman numberals down the far left side which will correspond to the severity level of the crime charged. If you do not know the severity level of the crime charged, ask your attorney or look in the Charging Information.
In order to know the presumptive legal sentence for each individual defendant, a person must locate their criminal history score using the categories along the top which are located above each column on the sentencing grid. Where the criminal history column intersects with the row that denotes the severity level of the crime for which the person is convicted, the presumptive legal sentence is presented in the intersecting box or cell and is denoted as a range of three numbers. The middle number represents the standard sentence. The higher number represents an aggravated sentece which the prosecution will sometimes request if there is something particulary heinous about the facts of the case. The lower number represents a mitigated sentence which the defense counsel will sometimes request if the facts merit a reduction in the sentence. As long as the sentencing judge renders a sentence that is represented by one of the numbers in the appropriate box then the sentence is presumed to be legal.
The following example is a hypothetical used to illustrate the basics of how Kansas Sentencing operates and will refer to the drug grid below. John Doe, the defendant, was convicted of possession of cocaine, a level four drug crime. He had never been in trouble with the law before. John's criminal history score is "I" because he has no criminal history and should be considered a person with "No Record". Therefore, John's presumptive legal sentence should be a range of 10-11-12 months to be served in the Department of Corrections (a.k.a. "prison").
Fortunately for John Doe, he will have the opportunity to be placed on probation and if he succeeds and follows all the terms of his probation, he will not have to serve any prison time. For both the Drug and Non Drug Grids, the lightly colored boxes on the grid represent presumptive probation sentences. For the more darkly shaded boxes, these are border boxes and the defendant can only get probation if his attorney files a motion pleading why his or her client is entitled to the probation. The white boxes are for more serious crimes and those who have a more comprehensive criminal history and the legal sentence for those defendants will be presumption prison with no opportunity for probation.
The concept of probation will be more fully explored on its own separate page at some point in the future when there is sufficient time to develop it. As with anything on this web site, this legal information is not to be construed as legal advice which you should personally seek from your attorney as it has to be individually tailored for each specific case. For example, there are a number of special rules which may or may not apply that could change the range of punishment that the government could request at sentencing.