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Sentencing Alternatives: Imprisonment and Probation in Kansas

When a client charged with a serious crime sits down with his or her defense attorney to assess the best options in their case, one of the first questions often asked is: “How much time will I get?” If a plea deal is either on the table or a desirable option, the question is really how much time will actually be served in prison, jail or other detention facility. Alternatively, offenders may also be placed on home confinement with electronic monitors or ankle bracelets.

The reality is that there are a number of alternative punishments and forms of incarceration for most any crime. Felonies will almost always result in a sentence that includes incarceration in the custody of the Kansas Department of Corrections, the state’s prison system, and probation from that sentence may or may not be granted. Misdemeanor crimes may be subject to serving time in a county jail.

Almost all sentencing alternatives in Kansas entail time on probation in lieu of serving time in jail or prison. Probation means the offender will be monitored in the community by a Court Services or Probation Officer.

Most people prefer a suspended sentence with probation over going to prison or jail. However, even with probation, there are different levels of community monitoring and several programs that can be ordered by the sentencing judge. Probation conditions vary depending on the nature and severity of the crime of conviction.

In Johnson County, Kansas conditional probation can include orders to stay away from certain individuals and places, abstain from all alcohol and drugs, register for and complete an alcohol or drug treatment program, maintain a job or student status, and meet weekly with the probation officer. It can also include house arrest, alcohol monitoring by ankle bracelet, AA/NA meetings, community service and other forms of monitoring and treatment.

Urinalysis testing may be administered, and probation officers can also conduct random searches of the probationer’s residence and/or person without a warrant. Failure to meet any of the probation requirements will often result in what correctional officers call a “quick dip” or “shock time”, which is serving a time period in jail shorter than the total sentence before being returned to the community to resume probation.

Kansas Sentencing Guidelines

Judges have a wide range of penal options at their discretion, but they are required to follow the presumptive Sentencing Guidelines for all drug and non-drug felonies unless they have a “substantial and compelling” reason for not doing so. In those cases a judge can “depart” from the Kansas Sentencing Guidelines.

The Kansas Sentencing Guidelines Act was signed into law in 1993. The stated goals of the Act were to reduce prison overcrowding while also providing uniformity and transparency in criminal sentencing. Regardless of whether those goals actually have been met, the result of the Act was the adoption of the sentencing guidelines grid system. There are two main grids on which an offender can be scored: the drug and non-drug offense grids.

For example, if a defendant is convicted of a drug crime that is a level 3 felony, and they have 2 or more misdemeanors on their record, the Guidelines specify a prison sentence of 54, 51 or 49 months with up to 36 months of the sentence spent on probation. The individual will also be subjected to up to 36 months of post-release supervision. The Guidelines Grid also specifies the chance to shave up to 20% off of this sentence for good behavior.

The time actually served in incarceration is heavily dependent on where a particular conviction will land on the sentencing guidelines grid. Aggravating and mitigating factors may play a part in determining where a case ends up, and whether a departure from the Guidelines will be possible. A thorough investigation into the accused person’s prior criminal history is also necessary in order to know exactly how they will be dealt with under the Sentencing Guidelines. If defense counsel fully comprehends the grid system and knows current sentencing practices in the jurisdiction, he or she can argue more successfully for the most lenient punishment at the sentencing hearing.

If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime contact one of our criminal defense lawyers at Norton Hare to schedule a free consultation and review of your case.

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