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Kansas Supremes: No Lifetime Post-Release Supervision

by Derek Gilna

The Kansas Supreme Court vacated sentences in which the district court had imposed lifetime post-release supervision on a defendant convicted of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree murder, aggravated assault, and illegal use of a communication facility. The Court held that the lifetime post-release supervision requirement for all four convictions constituted illegal sentences under K.S.A. 22-3504.

In 2013, Gabino Ruiz-Ascencio was involved in two separate incidents that resulted in trial for multiple charges. He was convicted of four of the charges. The district court sentenced him to “272 months for the attempted first-degree murder, 12 months for the aggravated assault, and 8 months for the use of a communication facility, to be served concurrently, and life in prison with a hard 25 for the first-degree murder, to be served consecutively to the sentence for the attempted conviction.” The court also imposed lifetime post-release supervision on all four counts.

Ruiz-Ascencio appealed his convictions and sentences. He argued that the sentences were illegal under K.S.A. 22-3504 because the periods of supervision do not conform to the applicable statutory provisions.” The Kansas Supreme Court upheld his convictions but ruled that his sentences were illegal.

The Supreme Court noted that it “may consider an illegal sentence under K.S.A. 22-3504 at any time. State v. Dickey, 301 Kan. 1018, 1027, 350 P.3d 1054 (2015).” It continued that whether a “sentence is illegal is subject to unlimited review.” Makthepharak v. State, 298 Kan. 573, 578, 314 P.3d 876 (2013).

The Court continued: “An illegal sentence under K.S.A. 22-3504 is one that (1) is imposed by a court without jurisdiction; (2) does not conform to the statutory provision, either in the character or the term of authorized punishment; or (3) is ambiguous with respect to the time and manner in which it is to be served. State v. Gray, 303 Kan. 1011, 1014, 368 P.3d 1113 (2016).”

K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 22-3717 sets forth the mandatory parole and post-release supervision for prisoners. They differ based on the severity of a crime, the Court observed. Under the state’s statutory sentencing scheme, each of the counts for which Ruiz-Ascencio was convicted was classified as a different “severity level felony.” Each severity level felony has a mandatory post-release supervision period, except first-degree murder, which is not subject to post-release supervision. However, the district court imposed lifetime post-release supervision on all four counts.

The Supreme Court concluded that the imposition of a uniform lifetime post-release supervision on all counts was “contrary to K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 22-3717,” and thus Ruiz-Ascencio’s sentences were illegal.

Accordingly, the Court vacated the sentences and remanded the case to the district court for resentencing. See: State v. Ruiz-Ascencio, 2017 Kan. LEXIS 977 (2017).  

 

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