Sentencing Guidelines

Under Kansas law, two primary factors determine the punishment a convicted felon should be given: the severity level of the crime and the defendant's criminal history.

In general, the potential punishment an offender faces can be determined by reference to sentencing grids. The left side of each grid reflects the crime severity level, with severity level 1 being the most severe and severity level 10 (or severity level 4 on the drug offense grid) being the least severe. The tops of the grids show criminal history categories. Convictions of person felonies are considered the most serious for criminal history purposes. Robbery and rape are examples of person felonies. Nonperson felonies rank next in seriousness level. Forgery and theft are examples of nonperson felonies. Misdemeanor convictions are considered the least serious.

There are some felony crimes which are not included on the grids, such as treason, first-degree murder and capital murder. These are called "off-grid" crimes and the punishments for those crimes are determined by other laws. There are also a few offenses called "non-grid" crimes which are punished by incarceration in the county jail rather that in prison. Felony DUI is an example of a "non-grid" crime. (Misdemeanor offenses also are punished by jail sentences and by fines.)

At the intersection of each severity level and each criminal history category is a grid box which contains three numbers. The center number represents the presumptive number of months an offender should be sentenced to prison. The other two numbers reflect a number of months the offender can be sentenced to serve without the judge engaging in what is called "departure" sentencing. Individuals whose crimes and criminal histories fall into the yellow non-drug or the orange drug boxes are to be sentenced to a term in prison but are presumed to be allowed to serve a non-prison sanction instead, such as being placed on probation or being assigned to a community corrections program. Individuals whose crimes and criminal histories place them in the blue drug boxes are presumed to be incarcerated for one of the three alternative sentences in the grid box. Persons whose crimes and criminal histories place them in the purple boxes are presumed to be incarcerated but can be given a non-prison sanction without it being considered a departure sentence.

Anticipatory crimes such as conspiracy, solicitation or attempt to commit a crime are dealt with a little differently. Anticipatory drug offenses are punished by a sentence six (6) months less than the presumptive sentence for the completed crime. Anticipatory nondrug crimes are rated at severity levels less severe than the completed offense.

By law, judges must impose a sentence shown in the appropriate grid box unless substantial and compelling reasons exist to depart from the presumptive sentences. Departures can be durational (a longer or shorter sentence) or dispositional (prison where probation is presumed or probation where prison is presumed). There are limits on how far a judge can depart by increasing a prison sentence but not on decreasing a sentence. Departure sentences can be appealed to a higher court but sentences that fall within the presumptive range cannot be appealed.

To the right of the grid boxes are two columns. The first column shows the number of months an offender is presumed to serve a non-prison sanction such as probation, depending on the crime severity level. The second column shows the number of months an offender is to be placed on post-release supervision after serving a prison sentence, also determined by crime severity level.