Articles Posted in Constitutional 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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals’ sua sponte dismissal of Appellant’s appeal from the requirement that he register under the Kansas Offender Registration Act (KORA), Kan. Stat. Ann. 22-4901 et seq., for his lifetime. Appellant pleaded no contest to kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated burglary. At the time of his crimes KORA required ten years’ registration. Statutory amendments between Appellant’s crimes and his plea, however, expanded the requirement to lifetime registration. On appeal, Appellant argued for the first time that his lifetime registration violated the Ex Post Facto Clause of the federal Constitution. The court of appeals held that Appellant’s merits arguments could not be raised for the first time on appeal because they involved both factual and legal matters. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant’s petition for review failed to challenge the lower court’s rulings upon which dismissal was based, and therefore, Appellant was not entitled to relief. View "State v. Pewenofkit" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for multiple counts of rape and aggravated criminal sodomy and one count of aggravated robbery and sentence of 570 months’ imprisonment, holding that there was no reversible constitutional or statutory violations. During trial, the district court admitted law enforcement’s video recording of Defendant in the interrogation room. The recordings were not played for the jury in open court, but the jury was permitted to take the exhibits into the jury room during deliberations. On appeal, Defendant argued that the way the district court handled the video recording violated his constitutional and statutory rights to be present at all critical stages of his trial and his constitutional right to a public trial with an impartial judge. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant did not establish reversible constitutional or statutory error under the law in effect when his crimes were committed. View "State v. Sullivan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s convictions for two counts of premeditated first-degree murder. The Court held (1) sufficient evidence existed such that a rational fact-finder could have found Defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the two murders; (2) the prosecutor committed misconduct by falsely claiming that one of the victims got a protection from abuse order against Defendant from the district court, and this error prejudiced Defendant’s due process right to a fair trial and required reversal; and (3) the prosecutor committed other errors in arguments to the jury and by disobeying a court order. The Court remanded this case to the district court for further proceedings. View "State v. Chandler" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed its holding in State v. Guder, 267 P.3d 751 (Kan. 2012), that the statutory changes to sentencing in the Kansas Sentencing Guidelines Act, Kan. Stat. Ann. 21-4701 et seq. (KSGA), abrogated the common law authority of district courts to modify any sentences that were not vacated on appeal. Defendant’s sentence for his premeditated first-degree murder conviction was held unconstitutional and vacated on appeal. On remand, the district court imposed a hard twenty-five life sentence for that conviction and ran it consecutive to his sentences for his two on-grid crimes. For those crimes, the district court changed Defendant’s two nonvacated sentences in length and sentence. On appeal, Defendant asserted that Guder, together with the KSGA, barred the district court from resentencing on any nonvacated counts. The Supreme Court declined the State’s request to overrule Guder and vacated Defendant’s sentence, holding that, barring the need to alter a nonvacated sentence as a matter of law, the district court may only modify the vacated sentence. The court remanded this case for resentencing. View "State v. Warren" on Justia Law