CAN A DEFENDANT’S PRIOR CONVICTIONS FOR SIMILAR OFFENSE JUSTIFY AN INCREASED SENTENCE?
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. Gideon, 849 P.2d 850 (Kan. 1995).
This case addresses the following issue:
Can a defendant’s prior convictions of similar offenses justify an increased sentence?
This case explored whether a defendant’s prior convictions of similar offenses could justify an increased sentence. In exploring this issue, the court concluded that the defendant’s prior convictions were substantial and compelling reasons for imposing an increased sentence even though existence of prior convictions was not on the list of reasons given to the courts by the Kansas legislature. Id. at 873-74.
The victim worked at a restaurant in Pittsburg, Kansas, where the defendant was also employed. Id. at 857. Around midnight on July 1, 1993, the victim asked the defendant to give her a ride home from a bar after they attended a mutual friend’s birthday party. Id. The defendant and the victim got into his truck. Id. The defendant varied from the route to the victim’s apartment, and when she asked about it he offered to let her out of the truck. Id. She did not get out, but at one point she reached for the door and he grabbed her. Id. The defendant drove down several dirt roads to a deserted area where he became enraged and raped the victim. Id. After the defendant finished, he took the victim by the hand from the truck and walked her into a wooded area. Id. The defendant then killed the victim and left her in a grassy area. Id. The defendant then left Kansas, abandoning the truck and turned himself in to law enforcement authorities in Florida after a national television feature on this case was broadcast. Id. The defendant was returned to Kansas and convicted of premeditated first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated criminal sodomy, and rape. Id. In addition, the court determined that an upward durational departure (increased sentence) was appropriate for the aggravated kidnapping, aggravated criminal sodomy, and rape. Id.
The defendant argued that the trial court erred in issuing an increased sentence on the aggravated kidnapping, aggravated criminal sodomy, and rape convictions. Id. at 872. The trial court used the defendant’s prior convictions of nonconsensual rape and nonconsensual sodomy as substantial and compelling reasons to impose an increased sentence. Id. at 873-74. In addressing the defendant’s argument, the court had to determine if the defendant’s past convictions constituted substantial and compelling reasons for an increased sentence. Id. at 872. In order to make it easier on courts to determine if something was a substantial and compelling reason, the Kansas legislature released a list of several aggravating factors. Id. at 873. However, the legislature noted that this list was nonexclusive and courts could consider other factors. Id. A few years later, the legislature released a few more factors and the list included a factor which stated, “The defendant’s current crime of conviction was a crime of extreme violence and the defendant was a predatory sex offender.” Id. Furthermore, the legislature went on to define a predatory sex offender as someone who had been convicted of a crime of extreme sexual violence as the current crime of conviction and who had one or more prior convictions of any crimes of extreme sexual violence. Id. Because the defendant had been convicted of rape and sodomy in the past, he was considered a predatory sex offender. Id.
The court concluded that the defendant’s prior convictions clearly fit as substantial and compelling reasons to increase a sentence. Id. at 874. According to the court, the defendant committed not one but two crimes of extreme sexual violence and was considered a predatory sex offender. Id. According to the court, the most significant part of the case was that the defendant was convicted of nonconsensual sodomy and nonconsensual rape and pleaded guilty to committing the same kind of offense as the ones he previously committed. Id. Therefore, the court concluded that the trial court did not err in using the prior convictions as substantial and compelling reasons to impose an increase sentence. Id.