Decision: State v. Thompson

December 5th. The Kansas Supreme Court has issued its decision in State v. Thompson, No. 94,254, the court issued a unanimous opinion, authored by Justice Luckert. The case concerned Dennis Thompson, who was convicted of a number of felonies for operating a meth lab in his garage. The case has been bobbing up and down between the District Court, court of Appeals and Supreme Court for the past three years, and involves the way different anti-drug statutes interact. The court makes three rulings of legal significance, though none are surprising based on the direction of its jurisprudence.

  • That Thompson’s convictions for possession of lithium and possession of pseudoephedrine under the ‘possession of drug paraphenalia with intent to manufacture’ amounted to two counts of the same offence (since both components are required for the process that is criminalized) and thus violate Double Jeopardy. The conviction for the lithium is therefore set aside.
  • That ‘possession of pseudoephedrine with intent to manufacture methamphetamine’ (a level 1 felony) is substantially the same as ‘possession of drug paraphenalia with intent to manufacture’ (a level 4 felony). Thompson’s conviction for the former is therefore set aside so that he be resentenced to the lesser offence.
  • That ‘manufacture of methamphetamine’ (a level 1 felony) is not the same as ‘use of drug paraphernalia with intent to manufacture’ (a level 4 felony) and that that part of Thompson’s sentence therefore stands.

In arriving at these conclusions the court clarified its Double Jeopardy and Identical Offense rules and tests. Kansas’ Identical Offense doctrine is a firm part of the legal landscape – perhaps when the legislature returns to session next month lawmakers can spend some time tidying up the mess of overlapping statutes before they craft any new ones. In a time of budget crisis doing so would save on the legal fees created by the seemingly endless stream of these cases.

Update:

January 28th. The Kansas Supreme Court modified its opinion in this case to remand Thompson’s case to the Court of Appeals to determine if he should receive a lighter sentence for manufacture of methamphetamine. The revised opinion is here.

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One Response to “Decision: State v. Thompson”

  1. Updated opinion: State v. Thompson « Kansas Supreme Court Blog Says:

    […] which was preserved in the original opinion. The remainder of the original opinion stands. See here for our coverage of this […]

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