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State v. Niehaus

Court of Appeals of Kansas

April 21, 2017

State of Kansas, Appellee,
v.
Sierra Rose Niehaus, Appellant.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         1. The most fundamental rule of statutory construction is that the intent of the legislature governs if that intent can be ascertained. To determine the intent of the legislature, courts must first attempt to ascertain legislative intent through the plain language of the statute-giving common words their ordinary meanings.

         2. K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 75-724(c) provides that a district court shall not lessen or waive DNA database registration fees unless the court has determined such person is indigent and the basis for the court's determination is reflected in the court's order.

         3. A district court is not required under the plain language of K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 75-724 to sua sponte consider a defendant's ability to pay the DNA database registration fee.

         Appeal from Saline District Court; Patrick H. Thompson, judge. Affirmed.

          Jennifer C. Roth, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, for appellant.

          Ellen Mitchell, county attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, for appellee.

          Before Leben, P.J., Pierron and Bruns, JJ.

          BRUNS, J.

         Sierra Rose Niehaus appeals the district court's order requiring her to pay a $200 DNA database registration fee after she pled no contest to second-degree murder and several other crimes. On appeal, Niehaus argues that K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 75-724(c) required the district court to consider her ability to pay the DNA database fee. Although we find that the plain language of K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 75-724(c) requires a district court to impose the fee and grants discretion to waive the fee when the defendant is indigent, we do not find that it requires a district court to sua sponte consider a defendant's ability to pay. Nevertheless, the record reflects that the district court did consider Niehaus' ability to pay when it was determining whether to assess restitution and other fees. Thus, we affirm.

         Facts

         The facts of this case are undisputed. On August 1, 2014, Niehaus was arrested for the violent murder of her younger sister. Niehaus-who was 14 years old at the time the crime was committed-was charged as an adult with first-degree murder, in violation of K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 21-5402(a)(1).

         On June 8, 2015, the district court ordered Niehaus to receive a forensic psychological evaluation and allowed her attorney to request funding from the Kansas Board of Indigent Services (BIDS). In addition, the district court granted Niehaus' request that Saline County provide educational services for her while she was in custody. On August 3, 2015, Niehaus waived her right to a speedy trial.

         Pursuant to a plea agreement, the State filed an amended information on March 2, 2016. The amended information charged Niehaus with four counts: (1) murder in the second degree, in violation of K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 21-5403; (2) interference with law enforcement, in violation of K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 21-5904(a)(2); (3) interference with law enforcement, in violation of K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 21-5904(a)(1)(A); and (4) theft, in violation of K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 21-5801(a)(1). The State charged Niehaus as an adult ...


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