BILL GIVES KANSAS JUDGES MORE DISCRETION IN SENTENCING
A bill that would ease penalties on some small-time drug offenders has been approved by the Kansas legislature and awaits the governor’s signature. The bill, House Bill 2318, won final approval in the House Monday on a 94-23 vote.
The bill would give judges more discretion when sentencing drug offenders for small-time possession or dealing to support their own habits, if they have no more than a single prior conviction on their record.
Under the current Kansas sentencing scheme, drug offenses are determined by a sentencing grid, and drug possession and small-time dealing offenses are considered “presumptively prison” sentences. That means judges currently have to state specific findings if they want to depart downward from the grid by handing out a lesser sentence.
The bill creates a “border box” on the grid, which would allow judges to order drug treatment or a lesser sentence without having to formally justify such a decision.
The bill also creates harsher penalties for big-time drug manufacturing or sales, but legislators said those big cases are more likely to be prosecuted by federal authorities.
Kansas has been wrestling with ways of reducing its prison population in recent years, and passage of this bill is another move in that direction.