Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Kansas Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of first-degree premeditated murder, holding that, even if the Court find one error and assume the existence of another, these errors did not, individually or collectively, require reversal of Defendant's conviction. Specifically, the Court held (1) the prosecutor use of the phrase "I think" qualified as error, but this brief indiscretion did not merit reversal; (2) even if the district court erred in failing to instruct sua sponte on reckless second-degree murder and reckless involuntary manslaughter, the error was not clear; (3) Defendant's remaining allegations of error were without merit; and (4) the errors - one identified and one assumed - did not cumulatively prejudice Defendant and did not deprive him of a fair trial. View "State v. Pruitt" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court rejecting Appellant's argument that a nineteen-month delay between his arrest and trial violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial, holding that Appellant failed to establish a violation of his constitutional right to a speedy trial as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and section 10 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights. In support of his argument, Appellant contended that the court of appeals erred in ruling that the six months he spent in juvenile detention should not be counted in determining the length of the delay. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the right to a speedy trial applies in juvenile offender proceedings, and therefore, Appellant's period of juvenile detention should be included in a calculation of how long it took to get to trial; but (2) Appellant's constitutional right to a speedy trial was not violated, even considering the full nineteen-month delay rather than the thirteen months considered by the court of appeals. View "State v. Owens" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction of intentionally placing another in fear or of making a threat in reckless disregard of causing fear, holding that, under today's decision in State v. Boettger, __ P.3d __ (Kan. 2019), the making-a-threat-in-reckless-disregard alternative is unconstitutionally overbroad, thus requiring reversal of Defendant's conviction. The jury convicted Defendant of criminal threat. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction and vacated his sentence, holding (1) sufficient evidence supported Defendant's conviction for making a criminal threat; but (2) it was unclear that the jury convicted Defendant on proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant acted intentionally, and the State did not meet its burden of proving that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of premeditated murder, four aggravated batteries, and criminal possession of a firearm, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court did not commit prejudicial misconduct when it denied Defendant's motion for mistrial; (2) the district court did not err when it failed to instruct the jury to view with caution the testimony of a witness for benefits; (3) the district court did not err when it denied Defendant's motion for new trial based on newly discovered evidence; (4) the State presented sufficient evidence of premeditation; and (5) the evidence of Defendant's gang affiliation was admissible. View "State v. Dean" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction of one count of criminal threat, holding that the provision in the Kansas criminal threat statute, Kan. Stat. Ann. 21-5415(a)(1), that allows for a criminal conviction if a person makes a threat in reckless disregard of causing fear is unconstitutionally overbroad. The jury convicted Defendant of one count of reckless criminal threat under section 21-5415(a)91). The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) under Virginia v. Black, 538 U.S. 343 (2003), the portion of section 21-5415(a)(1) allowing for a conviction if a threat of violence is made in reckless disregard for causing fear causes the statute to be unconstitutionally over broad because it can apply to statements made without the intent to cause fear of violence; and (2) because Defendant's conviction for reckless criminal threat was based solely on the unconstitutional provision at issue, the conviction must be reversed. View "State v. Boettger" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction for driving under the influence, holding that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule permits the State to use evidence obtained as a result of Defendant's breath test. Before the court of appeals considered Defendant's appeal the Supreme Court published its decisions in State v. Ryce, 368 P.3d 342 (Kan. 2016) and State v. Nece, 367 P.3d 1260 (Kan. 2016). Those decisions declared Kan. Stat. Ann. 8-1025's criminalization of a driver's refusal to submit to blood alcohol content (BAC) testing to be unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment. Consequently, a consent to submit to BAC testing after being advised that a refusal was a criminal act rendered the consent unduly coerced and invalid. In Defendant's case, the court of appeals concluded that Defendant's consent to search was invalid but affirmed on the basis that the good-faith exception applied to save the evidence from the exclusionary rule. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule permitted the State to convict Defendant with unconstitutionally obtained evidence. View "State v. Perkins" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court's decision reversing the revocation of Brenda Rosendahl's driving privileges but affirmed the district court's finding that the statutorily required $50 fee for an administrative hearing to challenge the suspension of driving privileges is unconstitutional, holding that the district court correctly found that Kan. Stat. Ann. 8-1020(d)(2) is unconstitutional but that this judgment did not impact Rosendahl's suspension. In Creecy v. Kansas Department of Revenue, __ P.3d __ (Kan. 2019), decided on this day, the Supreme Court held that the statutorily required $50 fee for administrative hearing to challenge the suspension of driving privileges is unconstitutional. In the instant case, the Supreme Court held (1) for the reasons set forth in Creecy, the district court here did not err in finding section 8-1020(d)(2) unconstitutional; and (2) the officer not had reasonable grounds to request that Rosendahl submit to an evidentiary breath test, and therefore, the district court erred in finding that the officer did not have reasonable grounds to request a breath test. View "Rosendahl v. Kansas Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's upholding the suspension of Michael Creecy's driver's license by the Kansas Department of Revenue (KDR) but held that Kan. Stat. Ann. 8-1020(d)(2)'s monetary requirement to obtain a due process hearing, without any exception for the indigence of the licensee, renders that provision facially unconstitutional. On appeal, Creecy challenged the constitutionality of section 8-1020(d)(2), which requires a motorist whose driver's license has been confiscated by a law enforcement officer as a consequence of a driving under the influence arrest to pay a $50 fee to be granted an administrative hearing on the issue of the license deprivation. The court of appeals affirmed the district court. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the court of appeals and the district court on the constitutionality of section 8-1020(d)(2), holding that the provision is unconstitutional and the remedy is a refund of the $50 fee; and (2) affirmed the suspension of Creecy's driver's license, holding that there was no merit of Creecy's other claims. View "Creecy v. Kansas Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's ruling that a $50 fee mandated by Kan. Stat. Ann. 8-1020(d)(2) to gain administrative review of a driver's license suspension is unconstitutional and affirmed the suspension of Warren Meats' driver's license, holding that Meats was not entitled to relief in this appeal. Meats requested an administrative hearing to challenge the suspension of his driver's license. An ALJ affirmed the suspension. Meats petitioned for de novo review, arguing, inter alia, that the $50 fee required to obtain an administrative hearing was unconstitutional. The district court affirmed the driver's license suspension but ruled that section 8-1020(d)(2)'s requirement as to the fee was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) this Court considered the constitutional argument in Creecy v. Kansas Department of Revenue, __ P.3d ___ (this day decided), and held that the $50 fee requirement in section 8-1020(d)(2) is facially unconstitutional, but because Meats did not appeal the district court's ruling that the issue was moot as to him, Meats was not entitled to relief in this appeal; and (2) there was no merit to Meats' other claims. View "Meats v. Kansas Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the district court's summary denial of Defendant's second Kan. Stat. Ann. 60-1507 motion and remanding the case to the district court for an evidentiary hearing on the issue of whether trial counsel was ineffective, holding that the court of appeals applied an incorrect standard to determine whether the district court should have considered a second or successive motion. In his second section 60-1507 motion Defendant argued that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to pursue a defense of mental defect and to request jury instructions regarding the defense of mental defect. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for a hearing on whether trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate Defendant's mental defect defense. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred in holding that the district court did not have to find exceptional circumstances to consider the merits of Defendant's section 60-1507 motion. View "Littlejohn v. State" on Justia Law