CAN A TRIAL COURT HEAR A MOTION TO CORRECT AN ILLEGAL 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. Wood, 306 Kan. 283 (2017).
This case addresses the following issue:
May a trial court maintain jurisdiction to hear a motion for an illegal sentence?
Does a constitutional claim for an illegal sentence receive different treatment than a non-constitutional challenge?
This issue raised in this case included whether the trial court erred by imposing an illegal sentence pursuant to K.S.A. 22-3504 after the 2011 amendments to KORA. Id. at 284. Whether or not a sentence is illegal pursuant to the previously provided statute is a question of law, subject to plenary review. Id. The Supreme Court of Kansas has previously defined an illegal sentence as one that is: “(1) imposed by a court without jurisdiction; (2) a sentence that does not conform to the statutory provision, either in the character or the term of the punishment authorized; or (3) a sentence that is ambiguous with respect to the time and manner in which it is to be served.” Id. In addition, the Supreme Court of Kansas noted that A court has the power to correct an illegal sentence at any time, including for the first time on appeal. Id.
In this case, the appellant alleges that the district court possessed the appropriate jurisdiction to consider his motion to correct an illegal sentence after the 2011 amendments to KORA imposed a 25 year registration requirement on the sex offender list. Id. at 283. The Supreme Court of Kansas noted that this appeal was a purely constitutional complaint. Id. at 284. The court furthered that “a party who raises a question of constitutional law via a motion to correct an illegal sentence runs squarely into the hurdle imposed by our prior caselaw that the definition of an illegal sentence does not include a claim that the sentence violates a constitutional provision and a defendant may not file a motion to correct an illegal sentence based on constitutional challenges to his or her sentence.” Id. at 285 (citing State v. Lee, 304 Kan. at 418). Therefore, the court held that the appellant cannot use a motion to correct an illegal sentence under the pretext of a constitutional claim. Id. Thus, the district court did have jurisdiction to hear the motion to correct an illegal sentence made pursuant to K.S.A. 22-3504, however, the appellant mad no advancement of a meritorious argument displaying its illegality, so his claim fails on the merits. Id.