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. Mays, No. 110,889, 2015 WL 1310700 (Kan. Ct. App. Mar. 13, 2015).
This case answers the following questions:
- When may a judge order compliance with a treatment program instead of imprisonment as punishment for a crime?
- May an appellate court review a district judge’s decision to order imprisonment instead of compliance with a treatment program?
A court may use K.S.A. 2012 Supp. 21-6804(o) when determining whether to impose a treatment program in lieu of presumptive imprisonment. Id. at 3. The statute provides that the district court may order an optional nonprison sentence for a defendant to participate in a drug treatment program if the district court makes the findings on the record that: “(1) substance abuse was an underlying factor in the commission of the crime; (2) substance abuse treatment in the community is likely to be more effective than a prison term in reducing the risk of offender recidivism; and (3) participation in an intensive substance abuse treatment program will serve community safety interests.” Id. The imposition of a treatment program relies completely on the discretion of the district court judge. Id. A nondeparture sentence that is within the presumptive sentence for the crime is not reviewable by an appellate court. Id. at 3-4.
In the current case, the appellant was convicted of felony theft and received a standard sentence in his case of 14 months’ imprisonment with 12 months’ postrelease supervision. Id. at 2. The appellant argued that the district court should have considered his request to impose a substance abuse treatment program in lieu of imprisonment because he testified that he was on drugs at the time of the theft. Id. at 2-3. The district court judge found that he had committed this crime while on probation for another offense and furthered that there was nothing to indicate that the defendant would “turn over a new leaf and suddenly become a sober citizen.” Id. Further, the judge did not find any of the necessary elements under K.S.A. 2012 Supp. 21-6804(o) that would be necessary to place the appellant in a treatment program rather than imprisonment. Id. at 3. The Kansas Appellate Court then determined that the sentence that the appellant received a presumptive sentence in accordance with the nondrug grid. Id. Due to the fact that a nondeparture sentence – within the presumptive sentence for the crime – is not reviewable by an appellate court, the Kansas Appellate Court thus concluded that they did not have jurisdiction to review this issue so they must dismiss the appeal. Id. at 3-4.