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State v. Ruiz-Reyes

February 1, 2008

STATE OF KANSAS, APPELLEE,
v.
JESUS E. RUIZ-REYES, JR., APPELLANT.



Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in 37 Kan. App. 2d 75, 149 P.3d 521 (2007). Appeal from Reno district court; RICHARD J. ROME, judge. Judgment of the Court of Appeals reversing the district court is affirmed. Judgment of the district court is reversed and remanded.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. The interpretation of a statute is a question of law over which this court has unlimited review.

2. When called upon to interpret a statute, the intent of the legislature expressed through the language in the statute governs. When a statute is plain and unambiguous, we do not speculate as to the legislative intent behind it and will not read the statute to add something not readily found in it.

3. When interpreting statutes, ordinary words are given their ordinary meanings. A statute should not be read to add language that is not found in it or to exclude language that is found in it.

4. There were sound reasons for Kansas courts' interpretation of the Habitual Criminal Act (HCA), not the least of which involved a recognition of judicial expressions of the purpose, objective, and philosophy of our habitual criminal statute. However, the purposes, objectives, and philosophy of criminal sentencing in Kansas have been radically altered with the enactment of the Kansas Sentencing Guidelines Act (KSGA). We now look to those guidelines for resolution of sentencing questions, not to judicial expressions of historical sentencing philosophy. The interpretations of the HCA have no place in our interpretation of the KSGA or the provisions of K.S.A. 65-4161.

5. For offenses committed on or after July 1, 1993--and thus subject to the KSGA and not the HCA--the definition of prior conviction included in the KSGA in the context of criminal history also applies to the determination of an offense's criminal severity level unless the legislature specifically indicates a contrary intent.

6. The plain language of K.S.A. 65-4161(b) contemplates a violation committed by an individual who has at least one prior conviction at the time the individual violates the law. Because the defendant in this case did not have a prior drug conviction at the time he violated K.S.A. 65-4161(a), his subsequent drug conviction could not enhance the criminal severity level of his current conviction under the provisions of K.S.A. 65-4161(b).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Davis, J.

Jesus E. Ruiz-Reyes, Jr., was convicted of one count of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute under K.S.A. 65-4161(a). At sentencing, the court determined that the defendant's conviction should be enhanced to a severity level 2 drug felony under K.S.A. 65-4161(b) based upon a prior drug conviction that did not become final until after the defendant committed the conduct that led to the conviction that underlies this appeal. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for resentencing, holding that the severity level of the defendant's current offense could not be enhanced under K.S.A. 65-4161(b) based on a prior conviction not finalized until after the current offense was committed. State v. Ruiz-Reyes, 37 Kan. App. 2d 75, 80, 149 P.3d 521 (2007). We granted the State's petition for review in order to resolve this question and now affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals.

Facts

On December 5, 2000, Ruiz-Reyes was arrested in Reno County and charged with possession of methamphetamine with the intent to sell; possession of cocaine with the intent to sell; possession of methamphetamine without tax stamps affixed; possession of cocaine without tax stamps affixed; and obstructing official duty. The charge of possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell was reduced to possession of methamphetamine at preliminary hearing, and the defendant was bound over for trial on the reduced charge as well as all other charges.

On April 8, 2004, the Reno County District Court granted Ruiz-Reyes an indefinite continuance in this case to await the resolution of other drug charges pending against the defendant in Butler County, Ellis County, and Ford County. On April 15, 2004, based upon his plea of guilty, the defendant was convicted in Ford County of possession of methamphetamine with the intent to sell and was sentenced for this conviction on June 11, 2004.

The State subsequently amended the Reno County complaint to designate the charge against Ruiz-Reyes for possession of cocaine with the intent to sell as a severity level 2 drug felony, based upon the April 15, 2004, Ford County conviction. The defendant pled guilty to and was convicted of this charge on June 10, 2005, but objected to the enhancement of his crime of conviction to a severity level 2 drug felony. The defendant argued that his Reno County conviction for possession of cocaine with the intent to sell, ordinarily a severity level 3 drug crime, could not be enhanced to a severity level 2 crime based on a Ford County conviction that did not exist at the time that he committed the current offense in December 2000.

The district court rejected the defendant's argument and sentenced him for a severity level 2 drug offense in accordance with K.S.A. 65-4161(b), with a drug criminal history of category F based on his other ...


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