Updated on June 2, 2020
Criminal History Calculations with Prior In-State Convictions
When calculating criminal history with prior in-state convictions committed before Kansas Sentencing Guidelines reform, does the Wetrich “identical-or-narrower” test apply?
Yes. The elements of the prior in-state crime cannot be broader than the elements of the current crime; “comparable” in the Kansas sentencing statutes means identical or narrower crimes.
In 2014, Jaqueline Coleman was charged with theft. Coleman’s prior conviction of involuntary manslaughter from 1992 was scored as a “person” felony for sentencing. The court released her to twelve months’ probation. In 2015, Coleman pleaded guilty to theft that occurred while she was on probation. Coleman’s probation was revoked, and the court sentenced her to serve the underlying sentences for the prior thefts and an addition term for the new theft convictions.
Coleman appealed the classification of her 1992 involuntary manslaughter conviction as a person crime. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court addressed the classification of her criminal history.
The court looked at Kan. Stat. Ann. 21-6810 as drafted at the time of Coleman’s 2015 crime. The pertinent text applies to prior felony convictions before July 1, 1993. The offenses “shall be scored as a person or nonperson crime using a comparable offense under the Kansas criminal code in effect on the date the current crime of conviction was committed.” The Wetrich court determined that “comparable” requires the prior offense’s elements to be identical to or narrower than the current offense. The Coleman court held that the reasoning used in Wetrich—the dictionary definition and the legislative desire for sentencing uniformity—applies in equal force to in-state convictions. The court found Coleman’s 1992 Kansas involuntary manslaughter conviction was comparable to the current involuntary manslaughter statute, which is a person crime.