A Wrongful 226-Day Confinement and No Relief: The Impact of Distinguishing Juvenile Adjudications and Criminal Convictions

In re M.M., No. 121,936 (Kan. Mar. 12, 2021).

Author: Chloe Ketchmark, Staff Editor

Issue: Kan. Stat. Ann. § 60-5004 provides relief for wrongfully convicted and imprisoned persons.  A magistrate judge wrongfully adjudicated and sentenced claimant M.M. to juvenile confinement.  May M.M. recover for the wrongful juvenile adjudication under the remedial statute?

Answer: No, because juvenile adjudications are not criminal convictions under Kansas law, the remedial statute does not apply.

Facts: After a bench trial, a Clay County magistrate judge found M.M. guilty of aggravated indecent liberties with a child and sentenced “M.M. to two years confinement at a juvenile corrections facility and six months’ aftercare.”[1]  M.M. appealed his adjudication, and after a 226-day confinement, a jury found M.M. not guilty.[2]  M.M. then sought recovery for his wrongful sentence and confinement under the remedial statute.[3]  The district court granted the State’s motion to dismiss, finding that M.M. was not “convicted of a felony crime” or “imprisoned,” as required by Kan. Stat. Ann. § 60-5004(c)(1)(A)–(D).[4]  M.M. appealed directly to the Kansas Supreme Court pursuant to Kan. Stat. Ann. § 60-5004(1).[5]

Discussion: Interpreting the plain language of the remedial statute, the court held that it “unambiguously prohibits recovery for wrongful juvenile adjudications.”[6]  Following Kansas caselaw, the court reasoned that juvenile adjudications are clearly not criminal convictions.[7]  The court presumed the Kansas Legislature considered this “well settled caselaw” when requiring a conviction to recover for wrongful imprisonment.[8]  Although the court previously held that “a tort statute may be construed liberally in order to give effect to its remedial purpose,” this rule did not apply here because tort law is common law, unlike the remedial statute.[9]  Thus, the court strictly interpreted the unambiguous plain language of the remedial statute.[10]  And because the statute applies only to criminal convictions, persons subjected to wrongful juvenile adjudications and confinements may not recover under the remedial statute.[11]

Key Authorities:

Kan. Stat. Ann. § 60-5004 (Supp. 2019), http://www.kslegislature.org/li_2020/b2019_20/statute/060_000_0000_chapter/060_050_0000_article/060_050_0004_section/060_050_0004_k/ (providing relief for wrongfully convicted and imprisoned persons),.

State v. LaMunyon, 911 P.2d 151 (Kan. 1996) (affirming that juvenile adjudications are not criminal convictions under Kansas law).

[1]  In re M.M., No. 121,936, slip op. at 2 (Kan. Mar. 12, 2021).

[2]  Id.

[3]  Id.

[4]  Id. at 3.

[5]  Id.

[6]  Id. at 5.

[7]  Id. (citing State v. LaMunyon, 911 P.2d 151 (Kan. 1996)).

[8]  Id.

[9]  Id. at 4 (quoting State v. Trudell, 755 P.2d 511, Syl. ¶ 2 (Kan. 1988)).

[10]  Id.

[11]  Id. at 5.

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