Retroactively Applying Limited Fact Finding for Out of State Prior Convictions to Illegal Sentence Challenges

State v. Gales, No. 119,302 (Kan. Oct. 4, 2019).

Issue: Should limited fact finding for out of state prior convictions to illegal sentence challenges apply retroactively?

Answer: Yes.  Limited fact finding for out of state prior convictions to illegal sentence challenges was not a change in the law under Kan. Stat. Ann. § 22-3504 and therefore should apply retroactively.

Facts: During sentencing, the court determined the defendant’s prior history.  This included a prior burglary conviction in California.  The defendant then filed a motion arguing the sentence was illegal because the district court incorrectly classified the prior offense.  In State v. Dickey, the Kansas Supreme Court held that sentencing courts are limited to fact finding only to decide the relevant statute to compare to the local statute for prior history determinations for out of state prior convictions.  The defendant argued that the court should retroactively apply the rule in Dickey.

Discussion: Whether or not the rule in Dickey applies retroactively depends on if it complies with Kan. Stat. Ann. § 22-3504.  Under that statute, a sentence is not illegal “because of a change in the law that occurs after the sentence is pronounced.”  Therefore, if the court finds that Dickey is not a change in the law, then the court will apply its holdings retroactively.

The Kansas Supreme Court looked to whether its holding in Dickey altered any statutes or created new doctrines of law.  Because the holding in Dickey merely adopted a rule created by the United States Supreme Court in Apprendi v. United States, Dickey did not “change in the law” under Kan. Stat. Ann. § 22-3504.  Therefore, the rule in Dickey applied retroactively in illegal sentencing challenges so long as the defendant was convicted after Apprendi, which did change the law under Kan. Stat. Ann. § 22-3504.

Key Authorities:

State v. Dickey, 350 P.3d 1054 (Kan. 2015).

Kan. Stat. Ann. § 22-3504 (2017).

Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000).

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