July 24th. The Kansas Supreme Court has issued its opinion in the case of In re C.P.W. (No. 101,017) a State appeal against an interpretation of law arising from a juvenile prosecution for a sex-offender’s failure to register at their Sheriff’s office. In a unanimous opinion, written by Justice Marla Luckert, the Kansas Supreme Court held that contrary to a ruling in District Court failing to register is not a crime of specific intent, and therefore the State only needs to prove that the defendant intended to break the law in such cases. Note: The District Court in this case acquitted C.P.W., and therefore though the State appealed the ruling for the purposes of precedent the Supreme Court’s decision does not affect them at this time.
C.P.W. failed to attend the local Sheriff’s office for registration after his birthday as required by the Kansas Offender Registration Act (KORA). At the time, sex-offenders like C.P.W. (who had been convicted of aggravated indecent solicitation of a child under age 14), had to register twice annually to have their information updated. The law now requires a thrice annual registration. However, at the time of the offense in question the law had only just changed to require the registration at a County Sheriff’s office rather than through the KBI in writing. C.P.W. did not attend. The District Court found that this crime was a specific intent crime and acquitted C.P.W. The State appealed to ask the Kansas Supreme Court to rule that this was not a correct interpretation of the law since the issue might arise again and a ruling from the Supreme Court would be a definitive precedent.
The Kansas Supreme Court agreed to take the case and ruled for the State. Henceforth, this crime should not be seen as one requiring specific intent. To understand what this means, one must review the levels of intent. In Kansas Law there are three levels of intent relevant to criminal activity:
Strict liability – the conduct is prohibited even if the participant had no intent to break the law. The State made an attempt to suggest that this crime is one of Strict Liability, but the Court rejected that.
General intent – the accused need only be shown to have formed an intent to do something that was prohibited by law. There is no burden on the State to prove a further specific element of intent.
Specific intent – the accused must be shown to have intended to break the law and intended to do something specific that was illegal.
The District Court had ruled for the third of these. The Kansas Supreme Court held for the second – general intent.