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Sometimes the black letter law passed by the legislature is unclear. The legislature can’t anticipate every possible fact scenario when they pass a law, so it lay to the courts to interpret the law and give guidance to what it means. This interpretation is called case law. When the court decides a certain meeting to the law it essentially answers a legal question. Lawyers and other courts then can rely on that ruling when they have a similar issue in their case. The following case answers the question above.

State v. Warren 270 P.3d 13 (Kan. Ct. App. 2012).

This case addresses the following issue:

Can I get my sentenced reduced if the crime committed only resulted in a small amount of harm?

This court explored the issue of whether a defendant get can get his or her sentence reduced if the crime committed only resulted in a small amount of harm. In exploring this issue, the court concluded that the district court could grant a reduced sentence based on the small quantity of drugs found in the defendant’s socks. Id. at 18. In order to grant a reduced sentence, the court referenced a Kansas law that allowed a reduced sentence when the degree of harm from the crime was significantly less than typical for such an offense. Id.

The defendant, an inmate, was convicted of introducing a controlled substance into a correctional facility when a small amount of marijuana was found in his socks. Id. at 15. As a result, the defendant was sentenced to an additional 122 months in prison. Id. Because the amount of drugs was very small and less than typical for the offense, the defendant asked that he be given a 40-month sentence based on his claim that the amount of drugs involved was so small. Id. at 17. Nevertheless, the district court held that it had no authority to depart from the 122-month sentence based on the amount of drugs because the Kansas statute that dealt with drugs in prison prohibited any contraband in a prison and no specific amount threshold was found in the statute. Id.

The court faced the issue of whether a reduced sentence could ever be granted based on the small amount of quantity of drugs involved. Id. at 17-18. In order to address this issue, the court referenced Kansas law which allowed a reduced sentence when the degree of harm attributed to the current crime of conviction was significantly less than typical for such an offense. Id. at 17. With this in mind, the court turned to the question of whether a small quantity of drugs in a prison-contraband case constituted a substantial and compelling reason to reduce the sentence. Id. at 18.

The State argued that because the Kansas statute banned all contraband, no matter the quantity, having a small quantity was just as bad as a large one. Id. In response, the court found no reason that the quantity of drugs may not be taken into account as a sentencing-reducing factor. Id. Additionally, the court noted that they had previously held that a reduced sentence could be given based on the small quantity of drugs involved in a prison-contraband case. Id. In that case, the court affirmed a sentence of 20 months, rather than 40 months, when the inmate possessed only two small marijuana cigarettes and the district court had found that a substantial and compelling reason to depart. Id. 

In sum, the court concluded that the possession of only a small quantity of drugs constituted a valid factor upon which a reduced sentence may be entered on a prison-contraband conviction. Id.

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