From sex crimes to traffic violations; What to know about Kansas’ sweeping crime law

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — A new Kansas law means sweeping changes to how the state handles crime.

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly held a ceremonial bill signing for Senate Bill 60 on Thursday. The law went into effect July 1 and deals with everything from penalties for sex crimes to traffic violations.

“We have a responsibility to take a hard look at the laws we have had on the books for years,” Gov. Kelly said.

The governor was joined by several other state leaders and Kansas law enforcement officials. Some supporters said the law is a much-needed step in reforming the state’s criminal justice system after a slew of concerns over several issues this past year.

“It will promote safety and respect on our highways, in our courtrooms, in our homes, and even through our smartphones,” the governor explained.

BANNING MENTAL HEALTH EVALUATIONS FOR CRIME VICTIMS

Among many changes, the law bans courts from requiring psychological or psychiatric examinations for crime victims, usually in cases dealing with rape. Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson said it’s an issue he’s seen many victims face.

“Can you imagine being a victim, particularly a child, to have the courage to come forward and admit that they were perpetrated on… most of the time by a family or loved one, or someone they really trust… and when they come forward, they’re forced to have a psychological evaluation? Not the perpetrator, not the suspect, but them.”

Todd Thompson, Office of the Leavenworth County Attorney

SEXUAL BATTERY OF A SPOUSE IS NOW ILLEGAL

The bill amends the definition of the crime of sexual battery to remove the element
requiring the crime be committed against a victim “who is not the spouse of the offender.” Before the change, sexual battery of a spouse was legal in the state.

The law also creates the crime of “sexual extortion,” which can also include revenge porn. A person could land on the sex offender list if convicted.

A similar bill was previously introduced earlier this year during the legislative session. Its sponsor, Hesston Representative Stephen Owens said he wanted to get the bill debated right away. Owens pointed to freshman Kansas City Representative Aaron Coleman’s admitting to revenge porn earlier in life as another reason to get the bill on the floor early.

“I thought it was even more prudent that it was introduced this year early on considering the individual that was elected from Kansas City that actually has a history of this type of activity,” Owens said.

INCREASED PENALTIES FOR FLEEING A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER

Another change is to traffic violations, like fleeing or eluding a police officer.

Earlier this year, another lawmaker, former Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop, was charged with several offenses while driving under the influence, two of which include driving down the wrong side of the highway and fleeing a police officer. A hearing is scheduled for the Wichita senator next month.

Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay reassured the public that the DUI case against Kansas Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop would be handled like other violations.

“Absolutely, I think that’s what we have to do,” Kagay said. ” And that should be the expectations of the community we serve.

Senate Bill 60 increases the penalty for fleeing or eluding a police officer while driving down the wrong side of the highway, along with other “evasive maneuvers” to a severity level 7 person felony. The offense was classified as a level 9 person felony before the change.

The bill amends the penalty for the felony offense without prior convictions to require the
court to impose a fine of at least $500 when the driver operates a stolen motor vehicle during
the commission of the offense.

“PROXIMATE RESULT” AND OUT-OF-STATE PROSECUTION

While some said the changes are long overdue, some criminal defense lawyers are concerned about the future implications of other parts of the law.

One main point of concern for Topeka Criminal Defense Attorney Meryl Allmond is that the law changes definitions to the term used for “proximate result.”

Under continuing law, a crime is considered to have been committed partly within the
state if the proximate result of the person’s act occurs within the state. Allmond explained that the law would allow state tax dollars to be used to prosecute crimes that take place out of state.

“A murder is committed in Hawaii, everything happens in Hawaii, but the funeral is paid for by a relative that lives in Kansas, then it’s possible that that murder can be prosecuted in Kansas too,” Allmond said.

Jennifer Roth with the Kansas Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers testified as an opponent of the bill during the session. She explained the origin of the Attorney General’s proposal for this provision is in response to a Wyandotte County criminal case, State v. Rozell. The case involved two drivers, Rozell, who lived in Missouri, and another driver, whose car was insured under his father’s car insurance policy in Wyandotte County.

Rozell claimed the insured’s policy, submitting a Missouri hospital bill to a claims agent in Tennessee. The Tennessee claims agent thought the bill looked suspicious so referred it to a different claims specialist, who lived in Sedgwick County. That person concluded Rozell altered the date on the hospital bill so that insurance would pay it as part of the Missouri car accident claim.

Rozell was charged in Wyandotte County with two crimes: making a false information (K.S.A. 21-5824) and a fraudulent insurance act (K.S.A. 40-2,118). The complaint charged that the insurance company was the victim. Rozell argued that the Wyandotte County court did not have jurisdiction because, if he did commit a crime, he did so in either Missouri or Tennessee.

JENIFFER ROTH, KANSAS ASSOCIATION OF CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYERS

The prosecution argued, both in the district court and on appeal, that K.S.A. 21-5106(b) means Kansas may prosecute any person who attempts to defraud any insurance policy issued to a Kansas resident because the “proximate result” happens in Kansas.

Allmond said a premature decision to define the term “proximate result,” which has not been defined for more than 50 years in Kansas stature, could have unforeseen consequences for the legal process in the future.

“We don’t even know what this might end up doing or how this might be interpreted. Once you prosecute someone, you’re putting them in our Kansas prisons. We’re having to pay for that full cycle of incarceration.”

The changes to crime laws come as the state works on police reform. State leaders said this includes improving processes for Kansas law enforcement and victims of crime.

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