Decision: State v. Phillips

June 19th. The Kansas Supreme Court has issued its decision in the consolidated cases of State v. Phillips (No. 96,754) and State v. Wenzel (No. 97,548). In a unanimous opinion, written by Justice Marla Luckert, the Court held that Court Docketing Fees and Bureau of Indigent Services (BIDS) costs which can be assessed against criminal defendents in the event of a guilty verdict, do not form part of the judgement and therefore do not have to be read in open court.

The cases concerned Robert Phillips and Alan Wenzel who were convicted and had these costs imposed against them, but without the judge referring to them at sentencing. Both men appealed to the Court of Appeals and the Court of Appeals (separately) ruled that the fees were not punitive and therefore not covered by the requirement that a judgement is void if it is not pronounced in the presence of the defendant. The BIDS fee is assessed based on the ability of the defendant to pay as determined at the time the defendant applies for a public defender. In Wenzel’s case the Court record did not reflect whether the judge at that time had made a determination whether to waive the fee or not. Therefore that part of that case was remanded to the District Court for fact-finding.

The Kansas Supreme Court upheld both Court of Appeals decisions, arriving at the same result. In addition it noted that this distinction of fees from punitive measures is also supported by a Statute which explicitly allows the Court to issue notice of them to defendants via a statement. However, the Court did urge Judges to announce these fees along with sentences anyway.

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