Arson Cases: Meeting The “Interest” Element Of The Offense

arson

A recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling showed some of the evidentiary issues faced in the trial of arson cases.  The case was State v. Bollinger, (No. 110,945) and it was decided this month.

The facts of Bollinger are tragic.  The defendant was involved in a marital separation and divorce drama with his spouse.  The dispute escalated in intensity and bitterness.  One night, a fire occurred at the residence of the parties, and the defendant claimed he could not remember how it began.  The defendant’s spouse perished in the fire, and Bollinger was charged with felony murder and arson.

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Curtilage, Search Warrants, And Illegal Drug Seizures In Kansas

What is the “curtilage” of a residence?  Under what circumstances can law enforcement search the outside of a residence without a search warrant?  These are some of the questions considered by the Kansas Supreme Court in its recent decision in State v. Talkington (No. 107,596), decided on March 6, 2015.

The Talkington case involved a drug search in the area outside of a residence.  Three issues were implicated in the case:  (1) whether a residential backyard is part of the “curtilage” under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution; (2) whether a social guest in the residence can challenge the search of host’s residence; and (3) whether drugs found on the defendant’s person after an illegal search of the curtilage should be suppressed as “fruit of the poisonous tree.”  Many search and seizure issues were implicated in this case.  It is an important case and one that deserves careful reading.

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The Good Faith Exception To The Exclusionary Rule Saves A Deficient Missouri Search Warrant

When will a search warrant be supported by probable cause?  What is the “exclusionary rule”?  And what is the “good faith exception” to the exclusionary rule?  These were some of the questions considered by the Missouri Court of Appeals last month (February 2015) in the case of State v. Gregory Robinson Sr, (WD 77664), which came out of Randolph County, Missouri.

The Defendant (Robinson) was charged with manufacturing drugs.  At his trial, his attorney filed a motion to suppress the evidence seized in the case, claiming that the search warrant used by the police officers did not show sufficient “probable cause” to search the premises.  He won his motion, and the evidence was suppressed.  The State, however, appealed.

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“Jury Box” Or “Hot Box” Jury Selection In Kansas Felony Criminal Trials

Does it matter how a jury is selected in a criminal case?  Can the method used in seating a jury cause reversible error?  According to the Kansas Court of Appeals, the answer is yes.  A recent case discussed these issues and how they would be applied.  The case was State v. Crabb, decided in February of this year (KS Court of Appeals No. 110,673).

In the Crabb case, defendant Christopher Crabb appealed his conviction of one count of interference with law enforcement. Crabb claims the district court committed reversible error by using the so-called “hot-box” method of jury selection over Crabb’s objection instead of using the statutory method of jury selection set forth in K.S.A. 22-3411a.  He also argued that the district court erred in instructing the jury and that he was denied a fair trial based on prosecutorial misconduct and cumulative error.

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Director Must Prove Elements Of Refusal Of Breath Test In DWI Cases

In a recent decision, the Missouri Court of Appeals upheld the standard required for the Director of Revenue to prove in DWI cases involving an alleged refusal to submit to a breath test.  The case was Ryan McPhail v. Director of Revenue (ED101307, from December 2014).  The Appellant, McPhail, argued that the Director had not proved he refused to submit to a breath test under RSMo. 577.041.1.  The Appellate Court agreed with him.

The facts were as follows.  The police officer conducted a traffic stop after observing a vehicle swerving and hitting parked cars.  The officer told the driver to get out and sit on the curb, and then told him to get his license and insurance.  The officer claimed he noticed signs of impairment, like slurred speech and stumbling; he asked McPhail to perform sobriety tests and take a breath test, and McPhail allegedly refused.  He was then arrested.

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Aggravated Battery Conviction Does Not Require Intention Of Resulting Harm

assault

In January of this year, the Kansas Supreme Court published an opinion that clarified its position on the type of proof needed to sustain a conviction for aggravated battery.  The case was State v. Hobbs  (Docket No. 107,667).  To sustain an aggravated battery conviction, is the prosecutor required to prove that the defendant intended the consequences of his act, or just the act itself?  It is a question that is constantly present in these cases.

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Failure To Register As A Sex Offender In Missouri Not A Strict Liability Crime

In Missouri, failing to register as a sex offender is a class C felony, pursuant to RSMo. Sections 589.400 and 589.425.  The Missouri Court of Appeals for the Southern District recently had an opportunity to rule on some important aspects of this offense, and reached an interesting conclusion.  The case was State of Missouri v. William Wilder, No. SD33140, on appeal from Wright County, Missouri.  The decision was reached on January 16, 2015.

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Entrapment As A Defense In Kansas And Missouri

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Entrapment is a defense available to defendants as a remedy for over-zealous prosecutions.  The defense is defined slightly differently in Kansas and Missouri.  In Missouri, entrapment is defined in R.SMo Section 562.066:

1.  The commission of acts which would otherwise constitute an offense is not criminal if the actor engaged in the prescribed conduct because he was entrapped by a law enforcement officer or a person acting in cooperation with such an officer.

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Identity Theft And Identity Fraud Crimes In Kansas And Missouri

Identity theft has been a growing problem for years.  Factors driving the increased prosecution of these types of cases is greater awareness of protecting personal information, the increasing use of identity theft in furtherance of undocumented labor, and the improved electronic security systems that are being implemented in the public and private sectors.

Both Kansas and Missouri have a specific set of statutes that are used to prosecute identity theft crimes, which are similar in some ways but different in others.  There are also federal criminal penalties for identity theft.

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Violent Crimes in Kansas and Missouri

Violent crimes are defined as those crimes involving force or the threat of force, or those that involve bodily harm to another.  It is not a precisely defined category, and authorities differ precisely on what may or may not be a “violent” crime.  Some types of offenses can be in more than one category of crime:  for example, aggravated sexual battery is both a sex crime and a violent crime.

Basically, a violent crime is one viewed as violent activity against a person or property that intentionally threatens or inflicts, or attempts to inflict, physical harm. Because of the seriousness of such acts and the potential damages that can result, violent crimes are typically prosecuted very aggressively by state and federal prosecutors.  In addition, alleged victims of violent crimes often have more involvement in the prosecution of these offenses than with other types of criminal offenses.

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