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State v. Sayler

Supreme Court of Kansas

October 27, 2017

State of Kansas, Appellee,
v.
Aaron M. Sayler, Appellant.

         SYLLABUS

          1. Charging documents do not bestow or confer subject matter jurisdiction on state courts to adjudicate criminal cases; the Kansas Constitution does.

         2. Charging document sufficiency is a question of law subject to de novo review.

         3. Charging documents need only show that a case has been filed in the correct court, e.g., the district court rather than municipal court; show that the court has territorial jurisdiction over the crime alleged; and allege facts that, if proved beyond a reasonable doubt, would constitute a Kansas crime committed by the defendant.

         4. Instructional error issues are subject to a multistep analysis: (a) the reviewing court must determine whether it can or should review the issue; (b) the court then must decide whether there was any error at all by considering whether the instruction at issue was factually and legally appropriate; and (c) if error is found, the court assesses whether the error requires reversal.

         5. For jury instruction issues raised for the first time on appeal, the court applies a clear error standard, i.e., the court will not disturb the conviction unless it is firmly convinced that the jury would have reached a different verdict had the instructional error not occurred.

         Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in an unpublished opinion filed August 22, 2014.

          Appeal from Kingman District Court; Larry T. Solomon, judge. Judgment of the Court of Appeals affirming the district court is affirmed. Judgment of the district court is affirmed.

          Rick Kittel, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, argued the cause and was on the briefs for appellant.

          Natalie Chalmers, assistant solicitor general, argued the cause, and Matthew W. Ricke, county attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were with her on the briefs for appellee.

          OPINION

          Biles, J.

         Aaron M. Sayler appeals his Kingman County conviction for failure to register as an offender under the Kansas Offender Registration Act, K.S.A. 22-4901 et seq. He advances two arguments, both premised on his claim that the reason he was required to register in Kingman County-the fact that he resided there-was an essential element of the offense: (1) the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the prosecution because the charging document failed to allege he resided in Kingman County; and (2) the jury instructions, which similarly failed to require the jury to find he resided in Kingman County, permitted the jury to convict him without finding each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.

         A panel of the Court of Appeals rejected both arguments and affirmed the conviction. State v. Sayler, No. 110, 048, 2014 WL 4231244 (Kan. App. 2014) (unpublished opinion). But after the panel's decision, State v. Dunn, 304 Kan. 773, 375 P.3d 332 (2016), made significant changes to the law on charging document sufficiency, the effect of deficient charging documents, and appellate review of deficient charging document claims. Among these, Dunn held charging document sufficiency does not implicate state courts' subject matter jurisdiction in criminal cases. 304 Kan. at 810-11.

         We ordered supplemental briefs as to what effect, if any, Dunn had on Sayler's first issue. Sayler conceded Dunn foreclosed his lack-of-jurisdiction claim but argued the charging document still failed to allege facts sufficient to constitute a Kansas crime. We hold the charging document was sufficient because it alleged facts that, if proved beyond a reasonable doubt, would constitute the crime of ...


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