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State v. Watkins

Supreme Court of Kansas

September 8, 2017

State of Kansas, Appellee,
v.
Joshua Harold Watkins, Appellant.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         1. The legislature intended the Kansas Offender Registration Act (KORA) to be civil and nonpunitive for all classes of offenders. 2.

         2. Because the legislature intended KORA to be a regulatory scheme that is civil and nonpunitive, only the clearest proof will suffice to override legislative intent and transform what has been denominated a civil remedy into a criminal penalty.

         Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in an unpublished opinion filed August 22, 2014.

         Appeal from Reno District Court; Joseph L. McCarville III, judge.

          Patrick H. Dunn and Adam D. Stolte, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, were on the briefs for appellant.

          Keith E. Schroeder, district attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were on the brief for appellee.

          OPINION

          BILES, J.

         Joshua H. Watkins was convicted of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, felony fleeing and eluding, and driving while suspended. He was required to register under the Kansas Offender Registration Act, K.S.A. 22-4901 et seq., based on the district court's finding that he used a deadly weapon in the commission of the offenses. Watkins presents two arguments on appeal: (1) because the registration requirements constitute an increased penalty for his offenses, the requirements could not be imposed based on the judicial factfindings under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed.2d 435 (2000), and (2) the court erred by imposing an increased sentence based on his criminal history, which was not proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

         The persuasiveness of Watkins' deadly-weapon-finding Apprendi claim turn on whether KORA's requirements constitute punishment for his underlying aggravated assault on a law enforcement crime. We have rejected similar claims and do so again in this case. See State v. Meredith, 306 Kan.___, ___P.3d ___ (No. 110, 520, filed August 4, 2017), slip op. at 10; State v. Huey, 306 Kan. ___, ___ P.3d ___ (No. 109, 690, filed August 11, 2017), slip op. at 8. We reject Watkins' criminal-history Apprendi claim as we have repeatedly done in many other cases. See, e.g., State v. Johnson, 304 Kan. 924, 956, 376 P.3d 70 (2016); State v. Ivory, 273 Kan. 44, 45-48, 41 P.3d 781 (2002). We will not address that issue further in this opinion.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Watkins pleaded no contest to aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, a level 6 person felony; fleeing and eluding, a level 9 nonperson felony; and driving while suspended, a class B misdemeanor. The district court sentenced him to 37 months' imprisonment and 24 months' postrelease supervision. The court further ordered Watkins to register under KORA because it found he used a truck as a deadly weapon in the commission of the aggravated assault. Watkins timely appealed.

         For the first time on appeal, Watkins argued the registration requirements violated his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights because the predicate deadly weapon finding was not submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt. And he asserted the same error regarding the district court's use of his criminal history at sentencing. Watkins acknowledged he did not raise these issues to the district court. He nonetheless argued both arguments could be brought for the first time on appeal because they turn on a legal question, citing State v. Anthony, 273 Kan. 726, 727, 45 P.3d 852 (2002).

         The Court of Appeals addressed his arguments on the merits because doing so was "'necessary to serve the ends of justice or to prevent the denial of fundamental rights'" State v. Watkins, No. 110, 702, 2014 WL 4231269, at *1 (Kan. App. 2014) (unpublished opinion) (citing State v. Tague, 296 Kan. 993, 1000, 298 P.3d 273 [2013] [listing three exceptions to the general prohibition of arguments ...


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