Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for felony murder, holding that sufficient evidence supported the conviction even where the State charged Defendant as the killer but the trial evidence established that his cousin fired the fatal shot. The Court held (1) because the trial record provided sufficient evidence that Defendant participated in the crime of an aggravated burglary during which an individual was killed, and because the issue of whether Defendant was the triggerman bore no relevance to that determination, a rational factfinder could have found Defendant guilty of felony murder beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the felony-murder elements instruction was not overly broad; and (3) any alleged error in the felony-murder elements instruction was harmless. View "State v. Robinson" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the State’s remedial legislation, the Kansas School Equity and Enhancement Act (KSEEA), enacted by 2017 Senate Bill 19, met the adequacy requirement of Kan. Const. art. VI, 6(b). In Gannon v. State, 402 P.3d 513 (Kan. 2017) (Gannon V), the Supreme Court held that the State had not met its burden of showing that KSEEA met the adequacy and equity requirements of Article 6. The Court stayed its mandate until June 30, 2018 to give the State ample time to satisfactorily demonstrate that its additional remedial legislation brought the K-12 public education financing system into constitutional compliance. Although the State has still not met the adequacy requirement in Article 6, the Court held that the State has corrected the Gannon V constitutional infrmities and created no others. The Court retained jurisdiction and stayed the issuance of today’s mandate until June 30, 2019, or until further order of the court. Therefore, KSEEA will remain in temporary effect. View "Gannon v. State" on Justia Law

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The district court properly suppressed drug-related evidence discovered in a vehicle search following a traffic stop because the officer improperly prolonged the traffic stop. The district court found the initial traffic stop was lawful and that the stop ended when the officer gave Defendant a warning citation and his documents and told him he was free to leave. The court concluded that a consensual encounter then occurred but ended when the officer told Defendant to sit down inside the police car and that there was no probable cause to justify the vehicle search. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to detain Defendant after the traffic stop, and therefore, the State did not meet its burden to show that the challenged seizure was lawful. View "State v. Lowery" on Justia Law

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A law enforcement officer’s detailed questions into a driver’s travel plans measurably extended the stop’s duration and were not justified by any reasonable suspicion of or probable cause to believe there was other criminal activity. Defendant moved to suppress the traffic stop evidence, arguing that the officer measurably extended the stop by asking travel plan questions before processing the driver’s license and warrant information. The court granted the motion to suppress, concluding that the officer measurably extended the stop with travel plan questioning unrelated to the traffic violation and that the officer lacked a reasonable suspicion that other criminal activity was occurring to justify the delay. The court of appeals reversed, holding that no constitutional violation occurred because travel plan questions are always within a stop’s scope. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because there was no colorable, independent justification for the portions of the detention attributable solely to unrelated inquiries into Defendant’s travel plans, this extended detention violated the Fourth Amendment. View "State v. Jimenez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the lower courts erred in concluding that the traffic stop in this case was impermissibly extended. The district court suppressed from evidence thirty-eight pounds of marijuana seized after a traffic stop, finding that the stop was unconstitutionally extended. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court disagreed with the lower courts, holding (1) discrepancies between the driver’s statements and the vehicle-related documents justified the deputy’s progressive questioning; (2) the questioning occurred simultaneously with the deputy’s appropriate steps in processing the traffic stop; and (3) the circumstances provided the officer reasonable suspicion to extend the detention and for a drug dog sniff. View "State v. Schooler" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court rejected the arguments of Plaintiffs, two public school teachers, who sought a judgment declaring the 2014 amendments to the Teacher Due Process Act, Kan. Stat. Ann. 72-5436 et seq., unconstitutional because the legislation constituted a taking of their property without due process. Before July 1, 2014, the contracts of tenured elementary and secondary teachers in Kansas school districts automatically continued into the next school year unless the school district gave a notice of termination or nonrenewal that set out the reasons for the termination or nonrenewal and notified the teacher of his rights to a due process hearing. The 2014 amendments removed both the requirement that the school district’s Board of Education state its reasons for the termination or nonrenewal and the right to a due process hearing. When Plaintiffs were informed that the Board would not be renewing their teaching contracts, they brought this action. The Supreme Court held that Plaintiffs did not have a property interest that was entitled to constitutional protection under either the federal or state constitution. View "Scribner v. Board of Education of U.S.D. No. 492" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for capital murder and aggravated kidnapping but, as to Defendant’s death sentence, the Court remanded the limited question on intellectual disability to the district court for further proceedings. On appeal, Defendant argued (1) numerous errors occurred during his trial’s guilt phase; and (2) evidence from his 2009 penalty-phase proceedings demonstrated that he was intellectually disabled and that the district court erred when it found insufficient reason to believe that Defendant was intellectually disabled. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding (1) no reversible error occurred during the trial’s guilt phase; but (2) as to Defendant’s death sentence, new rules for conducting criminal prosecutions have been enacted since Defendant’s trial, and therefore, the best interests of justice require reversing the district court’s reason-to-believe determination and remanding for reconsideration based on current constitutional parameters. View "State v. Thurber" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the district court, which ordered a reduced term of ten years of postrelease supervision after finding that a sentence of lifetime postrelease supervision would be unconstitutional as applied to Defendant. In reversing, the court of appeals directed the district court to impose lifetime postrelease supervision. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court made a legal error in its analysis and that the court of appeals erred when it did not remand the case for the purpose of using the proper legal standard to consider whether lifetime postrelease supervision was unconstitutional as applied to Defendant. View "State v. Riffe" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the district court and court of appeals ruling that a search of Defendant’s van, which resulted in the discovery of drugs and a meth pipe, was not in violation of Defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights. Specifically, the Court held that the district court properly denied Defendant’s motion to suppress because assuming, without deciding, that the initial encounter became an investigatory detention, it was supported by reasonable suspicion and was therefore legal, and Defendant’s consent to the search during that time was not tainted. View "State v. Hanke" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order that Appellant comply with the Kansas Offender Registration Act (KORA), Kan. Stat. Ann. 22-4901 et seq., holding that the court made the requisite finding on the record that a deadly weapon was used in Appellant’s commission of the person felony for which he was convicted, and the court’s failure to inform Appellant about his registration obligations at the time of conviction was error, but the error was harmless. Appellant pleaded no contest to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. When convicted, Appellant was not informed of his duty to register. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) based on Kan. Stat. Ann. 22-3602(a), this Court had jurisdiction to decide if Appellant’s registration responsibilities were invalid because Appellant was not challenging his conviction on appeal; (2) because Appellant was convicted of a person felony and the court found he used a deadly weapon, which was supported by the record, Appellant was a violent offender subject to KORA’s registration requirements; and (3) the court’s failure to notify Appellant of his duty to register at the time of his conviction did not excuse Appellant’s KORA registration obligations. View "State v. Marinelli" on Justia Law