Archive for April, 2014

Your Guide to Kansas Theft Crimes

Monday, April 28th, 2014

There are many ways to steal, so it only makes sense that there are a variety of Kansas laws which deal with theft. One of the defining characteristics of any type of theft is that the person who commits the offense intends to permanently remove the item from its owner’s possession. Once someone has that intent, that person must then commit one of the four acts that constitute theft. A person can commit theft by obtaining unauthorized control over property, using threats to obtain property, using fraud or deception to obtain property, or obtaining property that they know is stolen.

The value of the property that has been stolen plays a role in how a theft will be classified, as does the criminal history of the person who committed the theft. In general, if the value of the property or services that were stolen is under a thousand dollars, if lost property is stolen, or if a bogus check is written for any value under one thousand dollars, the offense is a petty theft, which is a class A nonperson misdemeanor. Anyone who is convicted of petty theft could be required to spend up to a year in county jail. They may also be fined up to $2500.00.

If the goods or services which were stolen are between one thousand and twenty five thousand dollars in value, the theft rises to the level of a severity level nine nonperson felony. There is also another theft scenario which is classified as a severity level nine nonperson felony, and that is when property of any value is stolen from three separate stores within a seventy-two hour period of time. The sentence for someone who is convicted of this type of theft is seven to nine months, with fines of up to one hundred thousand dollars.

The theft of property or services with a value between twenty five thousand dollars and one hundred thousand dollars is a severity level seven nonperson felony. If someone is convicted of this type of theft, they could spend a minimum of eleven to thirteen months in prison and be required to pay a fine of up to one hundred thousand dollars.

Thefts involving property and/or services with a value over one hundred thousand dollars are classified as severity level five nonperson felonies. The punishment for thefts of this nature may include a sentence of thirty one to thirty four months and fines of up to three hundred thousand dollars.

As mentioned before, the criminal history of a defendant also plays a role in the classification of a theft as well as the punishment for it. The punishments described above are all for people with little to no criminal history. Those with more offenses on their records will receive charges and penalties that reflect the amount and type of offenses which are in their records.

Shoplifting is one type of theft, and in addition to the crimes and penalties listed above, there are civil penalties which may be imposed on the person who committed the offense, or their parents if the person was a minor, under certain circumstances. For example, if the item is returned to the store in such a condition that it cannot be resold, then the person who took the item or their parents, if they are a minor, must pay twice the retail value of the item, or fifty dollars, whichever is greater, up to a maximum of five hundred dollars.

If you have been accused of any kind of theft, an experienced Kansas Criminal Defense Attorney can help you to avoid conviction whenever possible. They can also help to lessen the impact of a conviction on your life when conviction cannot be avoided. To learn more about how a Kansas criminal defense attorney can help you, please call our Wichita office today at (316) 264-1548.


Kansas Supreme Court Rules Vehicle Search Not Justified by Scent of Alcohol

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Kansas drivers can breathe a collective sigh of relief after a recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling which requires police officers to have more justification than just the smell of alcohol to search a vehicle. This ruling makes an important statement about what the Court considers probable cause. While it may take the police a while to abide by the Court’s ruling, drivers should be aware of it so that they do not consent to an illegal search of their vehicle upon the mistaken belief that the search is legal.

In 2008, Robert Stevenson was stopped by officers in Sedgwick County for a minor traffic violation involving a turn signal. The officers who stopped Stevenson were looking for a reason to pull him over because they suspected that he was involved in drug activity. The turn signal violation was therefore merely a pretext for the vehicle stop.

When Stevenson rolled down his window, the officers smelled alcohol. The officers then asked Stevenson to participate in a field sobriety test, which he passed. When one officer looked in the window of Stevenson’s vehicle, there was nothing within view that would justify a search. There were also no warrants out for Stevenson’s arrest. The officers were intent on searching Stevenson’s vehicle, so they claimed that the strong smell of alcohol gave them probable cause to conduct the search. Unfortunately for Mr. Stevenson, the officers found drugs in his vehicle. He received a conviction for the charges associated with the drugs which were discovered in his vehicle. Stevenson’s attorney appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court on the grounds that the search was illegal.

The Kansas Supreme Court agrees with Stevenson’s attorney. In its ruling, the Court says that the smell of alcohol, without more, is not enough to support a finding of probable cause. The reason that additional evidence must be available to support a finding of probable cause is that alcohol is a legal substance. Police officers may not legally search a vehicle without probable cause, and many cases that involve vehicle searches turn on whether or not officers had probable cause to search a vehicle.

This ruling makes sense, because there are other reasons besides drunk driving that could cause a person or a vehicle to smell like alcohol. For example, if you and your spouse attend a friend’s wedding and someone accidentally spills their drink on you, you may smell like alcohol until you get home and change your clothes. Likewise, bins or bags of returnable bottles in the back seat or trunk can sometimes smell like alcohol if the bottles or cans were not thoroughly rinsed out before you packed them up for recycling. If beer or wine from those bottles or cans gets on the upholstery, the smell of alcohol may stay in your car even after the bottles and cans have been dropped off at the recycling center. In Stevenson’s case, the alcohol smell was coming from a half-full bottle of wine which had been sealed for transport but had leaked onto the floor.

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, it is essential that you seek the assistance of an experienced Kansas DUI defense attorney. Whether your case involves an illegal vehicle search, violations of your rights, or some other wrongdoing by law enforcement, we are here to help you. To learn more about how a knowledgeable Kansas DUI Defense Attorney can improve your chances of successfully defending your DUI case, please call our Wichita office today at (316) 264-1548.


Chain Reaction Accident in Lenexa Injures Eight People

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

On Sunday morning, March 23, 2014, light snow was falling in Lenexa, Kansas. As a result of the snow, roads were slick. The slippery driving conditions caused a twenty-two car pileup on a ramp near Highway 69 and Interstate 35. Fortunately, no one was killed in this chain reaction accident, but a total of eight people were injured. The first cars became involved in the accident around six thirty in the morning, and after the series of accidents had occurred, police closed the ramp for a few hours so that all of the vehicles could be cleared from the roadway.

While icy roads were to blame for the recent chain reaction accident in Lenexa, drivers should be aware that pile-ups can happen when roads are wet, and they sometimes even happen on dry pavement. Also, chain reaction accidents happen quickly. A one or two-vehicle accident can become a multiple vehicle pile-up within minutes, causing many injuries and a large amount of property damage within a very short period of time.

Fortunately, Kansas drivers can often avoid becoming entangled in chain reaction accidents by implementing safe driving strategies. The following safe driving tips can help drivers to effectively avoid chain reaction accidents under many different circumstances, including wet or icy road conditions and heavy traffic.

Awareness of weather and road conditions is essential to the prevention of chain reaction accidents. Of course, awareness alone will not prevent an accident. Drivers must also adjust their driving to the current road conditions, and they must continually monitor road conditions to make additional adjustments as conditions change. For example, rain, snow and fog reduce visibility. It is important that drivers slow down in wet weather so that they have time to react to accidents, animals, and other road hazards when they see them, because by the time that they see them, they are likely to already be very close to them. Snow, sleet, and rain reduce traction, so it is important that you drive slow enough to avoid hydroplaning and to be able to stop without sliding all over the place.

Another way to avoid chain reaction accidents is to make sure that you always leave plenty of room between your car and the vehicle in front of you. One way to make sure that there is adequate space is to remain at least one car length behind the vehicle in front of you for every ten miles per hour that you are traveling. When you leave enough space between your car and the vehicles around you, you will have time and space within which to respond to changing road and traffic conditions, and to react quickly if necessary.

Adding the aforementioned safe driving practices to your repertoire can help you to avoid many accidents, including chain reaction-style accidents. However, it is possible that you may still be involved in an automobile accident. If you are involved in a chain reaction accident, you may face a complicated set of facts which could make it difficult for liability for your damages to be apportioned among the drivers involved. This can be frustrating, because it can cause a delay the payment of your claim. We understand that you are counting on the payment of your claim to help you recover physically and financially from your accident, and we can help you to cut through the confusion and obtain the recovery that you deserve, as soon as possible.  To learn more about how a Kansas Personal Injury Attorney can help you to obtain the settlement that you deserve, please call our Wichita office today at (316) 264-1548.