Knowing the law isn’t as easy as it appears to be. Every time a legal case occurs the law can potentially change. To truly understand the law on any given subject you must know how it has been applied in your particular circumstances. The past interpretation of the law by a court is called “case law”. This short video explains how case law works:

The case below answers the specific question below in straightforward language. If you need straightforward answers to your legal questions, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation.

State v. Jaben, 277 P.3d 417 (Kan. 2012).

This case addresses the following issue:

1. What Expungement Statute Applies To My Case?

This case explored the issue of what expungement statute applied to the defendant’s case. In exploring this issue, the court concluded it was a well-established rule that a statute should only apply to convictions that occurred after the statute was passed by the legislature unless the legislature clearly indicated that a statute could take effect before it was passed. Id. at 421. So, if a defendant committed a crime on Monday and the expungement statute in place said the crime could be expunged, and then the legislature passed a new statute on Tuesday that prohibited that same crime from being expunged, a court would have to use the Monday statute and expunge the defendant. However, the court could use the Tuesday statute if the statute’s language clearly indicated that the legislature wanted the court to use the Tuesday statute in situations where a crime occurred on Monday.

In 1977, the defendant pled guilty to two counts of rape and one count each of attempted rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated battery. Id. at 418. As a result, the defendant received a controlling maximum sentence of life imprisonment from which he was paroled (temporary release of prisoner who agrees to certain conditions) in 2001. Id. The defendant was released from parole and petitioned (asked) the court to expunge his 1977 convictions. Id. The State objected to the defendant’s petition, arguing that the district court should use the Kansas expungement statute (“Statute 1”) in place when the defendant petitioned for expungement. Id. This statute did not allow for expungement of rape and aggravated sodomy. Id. Despite this argument, the district court granted the defendant an expungement and used the Kansas expungement statute (“Statute 2”) in effect at the time the crimes were committed which allowed for expungement of rape and aggravated sodomy. Id. In response, the State appealed the decision stating that the district court should have used Statute 1. Id.

The ultimate question in this case was whether the district court should have applied Statute 1, which did not allow for expungement of defendant’s crimes, or Statute 2, which allowed for expungement of the defendant’s crimes. Id. at 419. The court noted it was a well-established rule that a statute only applied to cases after it was passed unless its language clearly indicated an intent by the legislature to apply it to convictions for crimes occurring before its passing. Id. at 421.

The court noted that Statute 1 did not expressly state that it should be used to effect convictions that occurred before it was passed. Id. Moreover, the court could not establish any clear intent by the legislature who passed Statute 1 to utilize it in this way. Id. Therefore, the court concluded that Statute 1 should only be used for convictions that occurred after it was passed. Id. So, the district court was not wrong when they applied Statute 2 and granted the defendant’s petition for expungement. Id.