Newsbrief: Kansas Supreme Court Says Cut Methamphetamine Sentences 7/9/04

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In January, the Kansas Supreme Court declared that the state's sentencing guidelines for people who manufacture methamphetamine were unlawfully harsh. The court held that anyone convicting of cooking meth should be resentenced to much lower prison terms. In a ruling June 25, the state Supreme Court expanded and clarified that ruling to say that it also included people who been sentenced after pleading guilty. As a result of the two rulings, the Kansas City Star reported, "hundreds" of Sunflower State meth cooks will serve drastically shorter sentences.

In its January decision in the case of Brian McAdam, the court found that that the state had two different laws addressing penalties for meth cooks. Kansas prosecutors had been using the most recent law, passed in 1990 and aimed specifically at methamphetamine, to send cooks to prison on double-digit sentences. But the court held that when two laws cover the same criminal activity, defendants can only be sentenced under the law containing the lesser sentence.

The impact was dramatic. Meth cooks sentenced to 11 ½ to 17 years in prison before the ruling are being resentenced to between one and four years now. The question the court addressed in its most recent ruling was whether to extend that same right to seek a new sentence to people who had not been convicted but had instead pled guilty. According to state corrections officials, some 440 people are eligible to seek new, reduced sentences under the rulings.

Prosecutors are grumbling. "Unfortunately, this just adds to the fallout from the McAdam decision," Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison told the Star.

The Kansas legislature this year passed a bill correcting the wording of the methamphetamine statutes so that those convicted in the future will face the more serious sentences. But in the June 25 ruling in the case of Theresa Barnes, the Supreme Court blocked the legislature's effort to have the law applied retroactively. Thus, the court's ruling will aid only those persons convicted under the old law, not those who get caught now or in the future.

The Kansas Supreme Court opinion in the January case, Kansas v. McAdam, is available online at:

The ruling in the June 25 case, Kansas v. Barnes, is available online at:

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Issue #345, 7/9/04 Editorial: Time for Congress to Get Real | In the Wake of Blakely: Federal Sentencing Chaos as Defense Attorneys, Prosecutors, Lawmakers Ponder How to Respond | House Votes Down Medical Marijuana Bill -- Election Year Politics, Organized Opposition Cited | International AIDS Conference Puts Focus on Thai War on Drugs | Making it Official: More Initiatives Move Toward November Ballot | ALERT: "Thank or Spank" Your Congressman for This Week's Medical Marijuana Vote | Newsbrief: Rep. Ron Paul Brings Pain Doctor Prosecution Issue to House | Newsbrief: US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Rejects DEA Motion for New Hemp Hearing | Newsbrief: Kansas Supreme Court Says Cut Methamphetamine Sentences | Newsbrief: Tommy Chong Walks Out of Prison | Newsbrief: Iranians Protest US, UK Blind Eye to Afghan Opium Crop | Newsbrief: United Arab Emirates Ponders First Step Toward Harm Reduction | Newsbrief: Head of National Drug Intelligence Center Fired | Newsbrief: Prohibition as a Marketing Tool -- Camel Ad Campaign Touts "Forbidden Fruit" Appeal | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: California Prisons "Dysfunctional," State Report Concludes | Movie Opening: Maria Full of Grace | Media Scan: New CSDP Ad -- Richard Paey and Rush Limbaugh | This Week in History | Psilocybin Cancer Research Study Still Seeking Participants | The Reformer's Calendar

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