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. Martin, 175 P.3d 832 (Kan. 2008).
This case addresses the following issue:
Can a sentence be increased if the defendant enticed a minor to commit a crime?
This court explored the issue of whether a sentence could be increased if the defendant enticed a minor to commit a crime. In exploring this issue in the present case, the court concluded that the violation of the defendant mother’s special relationship and unique position of trust with her codefendant son was a substantial and compelling reason to depart from the assumed sentence and give her an increased sentence. Id. at 833.
On July 10, 2005, the defendant had an argument with an acquaintance. Id. at 834. Later that night, the defendant drove her 16-year-old son to the acquaintance’s house. Id. While driving by, the defendant turned off her car headlights, gave her son a handgun, and ordered him to “do it, do it!” Id. The defendant’s son then fired four shots into the house. Id. Four people were in the house at the time but no one was injured. Id. The defendant was later arrested and charged with two counts: (1) criminal discharge of a firearm at an occupied dwelling, and (2) contributing to a child’s misconduct. Id. The defendant pled guilty and probation was indicated for both charges. Id. However, the State moved for an upward dispositional departure (send her to prison instead of probation) and the trial court allowed the motion. Id. One of the reasons that the trial court gave for allowing the increased sentence motion was that the defendant occupied a special fiduciary relationship with her 16-year-old son and she violated this relationship and the unique position of trust she occupied as a mother. Id.
The sole issue the court addressed in this case was whether the district court’s reasons for its increased sentence were “substantial and compelling” as required by the Kansas statute. Id. at 834. In making their decision, the court relied on a Kansas case whose facts mirrored the defendant’s case. Id. In that case, a father had urged his son to rob a bank in order to obtain money for his own bail. Id. at 838-39. As a result, the district court increased the father’s sentence, requiring him to serve an additional two months in prison. Id. On appeal, the higher court held that the factual finding of the father urging his son to rob a bank provided a perfectly adequate justification for an increased sentence. Id. at 839.
However, the court did reference another Kansas case which stated, “Reasons which may in one case justify departure may not in all cases justify a departure. Rather, we must evaluate the offense of conviction, the defendant’s criminal history, and the departure reason stated, as well as the purposes and principles of the Kansas Sentencing Guidelines.” Id. at 838. Furthermore, the court found that bringing a child into a criminal scheme was not always an aggravating circumstance, especially when the defendant did not understand that what he or she was asking the child to do violated the law. Id.
Nevertheless, the court held that the special relationship and unique position of trust defendant occupied as a mother, and her violation of that special relationship and unique position, were especially substantial and compelling under the specific facts of the case. Id.