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State v. Donaldson

Supreme Court of Kansas

June 2, 2017

State of Kansas, Appellee,
v.
Erick Donaldson, Appellant.

         SYLLABUS

         1. An appellate court reviews a district court's summary denial of a motion to correct an illegal sentence under K.S.A. 22-3504(1) de novo because the reviewing court has the same access to the motions, records, and files. The reviewing court, like the district court, must determine whether the documents conclusively show the defendant is not entitled to relief.

         2. Whether a sentence is illegal is a question of law over which an appellate court has unlimited review. An illegal sentence under K.S.A. 22-3504(1) is one: (a) imposed by a court without jurisdiction; (b) that does not conform to the statutory provisions, either in the character or the term of the punishment authorized; or (c) that is ambiguous with respect to the time and manner in which it is to be served.

         3. The classification of a prior crime as a person or nonperson felony for criminal history purposes is a question of state statutory law. A misclassification results in an illegal sentence that can be corrected at any time.

         Appeal from Sedgwick District Court; John J. Kisner, Jr., judge. Reversed and remanded with directions.

          Carl F.A. Maughan, of Maughan Law Group LC, of Wichita, and Sean M.A. Hatfield, of the same firm, were on the brief for appellant.

          Julie A. Koon, assistant district attorney, Marc Bennett, district attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were on the brief for appellee.

          OPINION

          Biles, J.

         Erick Donaldson was convicted of sale of cocaine. He was sentenced under the Kansas Sentencing Guidelines Act (KSGA). See K.S.A. 21-4701 et seq. His criminal history at that time included a 1990 felony adjudication for burglary, which the district court classified as a person crime for sentencing purposes.

         In 2014, Donaldson filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence, claiming the district court's classification of the 1990 felony adjudication for burglary was an error under State v. Dickey, 301 Kan. 1018, 1039-40, 350 P.3d 1054 (2015) (Dickey I) (holding pre-KSGA convictions and juvenile adjudications of burglary under K.S.A. 21-3715 must be classified as nonperson felonies). The district court summarily denied him relief. We reverse based on Dickey I, vacate the sale of cocaine sentence, and remand for resentencing with directions to reclassify the 1990 burglary adjudication as a nonperson felony.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         A jury convicted Donaldson of first-degree felony murder and sale of cocaine- the sale occurred in 2002-in two separate cases that were consolidated for trial. The presentence investigation reports revealed nine prior convictions, including a 1990 Kansas juvenile adjudication for burglary, scored as a person felony.

         At the time Donaldson committed the cocaine offense, it was a severity level 3 drug grid felony. K.S.A. 65-4161(a); see K.S.A. 21-4705. Under the KSGA, the presumptive sentencing range for a severity level 3 drug grid felony varied based on the offender's criminal history score. See K.S.A. 21-4705(a), (d). The district court applied a criminal history score of "B" and sentenced Donaldson to 44 months' imprisonment-the center of the range applicable to an offender with that criminal history score. The court ordered that this sentence be served consecutive to a hard 20 life sentence it imposed for the murder conviction.

         Under the KSGA, a criminal history score of "B" applied if "[t]he offender's criminal history includes two adult convictions or juvenile adjudications, in any combination, for person felonies." K.S.A. 21-4709. Donaldson argued below that the correct criminal history score was "C." This score applied if "[the] offender's criminal history includes one adult conviction or juvenile adjudication for a person felony, and one or more ...


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