Decision: State v. Bee

May 22nd. The Kansas Supreme Court has issued its opinion in State v. Bee (No. 97,677),  a drug-related probation revocation appeal. In a unanimous opinion, written by Justice Eric Rosen, the Court held that Larry Bee was properly sentenced to his underlying prison sentence when his probation was revoked. Bee had argued that the District Court should have considered sending him to a non-prison alternative such as the Labette Correctional Conservation Camp.

In July 2003, Bee was charged with several felonies relating to possession of methamphetamine and marijuana. As part of a plea agreement all of these but one were dismissed and Bee was sentenced in May 2004 to 13 months imprisonment, suspended due ot probation. A month later, the State filed a motion to revoke Bee’s probation since he had not shown up to meetings with his probation officer and had again been found to be using meth. The Court’s opinion is silent on what happened here, but two years later the State again filed a motion to revoke Bee’s probation on the grounds that he did not show up and continued to use drugs.

The District Court revoked Bee’s probation and sentenced him to gaol. Bee argued that instead of this the court should have considered sending him to the Labette Correctional Camp or another non-prison alternative. His argument was based on a statute which states that for defendants falling into the position on the sentencing grid that Bee did, the District Court shall do this prior to sending a revoked probationer to prison.

However, there are other statutes which also govern the revocation of probation which require that certain classes of drug offenders be sent to prison on revocation of their probation. The Kansas Supreme Court analyzed these and based upon the fact that some were enacted after the Labette statute and that they also contain the word ‘shall’ found that they controlled the outcome in this case. Bee was therefore properly sentenced to prison.

The State did not win every part of its argument. The Labette statute identified two classes of individual who should be considered – those whose offences did not fall under a particular other statute and those whose criminal history meant that they would receive probation. Bee’s crimes were among those which were specifically excluded from the first part of the Labette statute, but his criminal history brought him into the second part. The State had argued that the former meant that the entire matter did not apply. The Court disagreed, finding that because the legislature used the word ‘or’ between these two sections Bee’s disqualification from the former did not prevent the application of the latter. Rather, it was the other statutes which meant that he was properly imprisoned.

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