Appeal from Atchison District Court; MARTIN J. ASHER, judge.
1. Self-propelled cranes are exempt from Kansas vehicle-registration requirements. Under K.S.A. 2007 Supp. 8-128(b), a self-propelled crane is (1) a crane (2) that is self-propelled and (3) not used for the transportation of property (other than what's required to operate the crane), with (4) the crane operator running the crane's controls from a permanent housing or module on the crane.
2. The requirement of K.S.A. 2007 Supp. 8-128(b) that the operator run the crane's controls from a permanent housing or module on the crane is met when the controls are contained within a metal housing that is permanently affixed to the crane. The statute does not require an enclosed cab that would house both the operator and the controls.
3. Because K.S.A. 2007 Supp. 8-142 First makes it unlawful to operate an unregistered vehicle on a Kansas highway, we apply the rule of lenity when interpreting K.S.A. 2007 Supp. 8-128(b). Under that rule, penal statutes are narrowly construed in favor of the defendant, including laws establishing criminal liability. The rule of lenity helps ensure that citizens have fair notice of conduct that is criminal.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Leben, J.
Before GREEN, P.J., GREENE and LEBEN, JJ.
Kansans who operate vehicles on the roadways of Kansas must register them with the division of motor vehicles. But self-propelled cranes--defined by statute as cranes where an operator controls them from a permanent housing or module on the crane and the crane is not used to transport other property--are exempt from this requirement. An employee of Midwest Crane & Rigging, Kirk Zeit, was convicted of a misdemeanor for operating one of the company's cranes on a roadway when it was not registered. We must set aside this conviction because the vehicle at issue meets the statutory definition of a self-propelled crane.
The Legislature Has Made It Illegal to Operate an Unregistered Vehicle but Has Exempted Self-Propelled Cranes
K.S.A. 2007 Supp. 8-142 First makes it unlawful to operate an unregistered vehicle on a Kansas highway. It is an unclassified misdemeanor when an individual wrongly claims that the unregistered vehicle he or she is driving is exempt as a crane, and the statute requires a minimum fine of $500. Zeit was convicted here of operating an unregistered vehicle on U.S. 59 Highway in Leavenworth County while Zeit was claiming the vehicle was an exempt crane. The district court fined Zeit $500.
K.S.A. 2007 Supp. 8-128(b) provides an exemption to this registration requirement for self-propelled cranes that are permanently fashioned to operate as a crane and not used for any other purpose:
Self-propelled cranes where the crane operator on a job site operates the controls of such crane from a permanent housing or module on the crane and the crane is not used for the transportation of property, except the property that is required for the operation of the crane itself . . . may be moved on the highways of this state from one job location to another, or to or from places of storage, delivery or repair, without complying with the provisions of the law relating to registration and display of license plates but shall comply with all the other requirements of the law relating to motor vehicles.
The statute uses four ingredients to define a self-propelled crane. It must be: (1) a crane (2) that is self-propelled and (3) not used for the transportation of property (other than what's required to operate the crane), with (4) the crane operator running ...