State v. Mcknight, 100,246.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Kansas
Writing for the CourtThe opinion of the court was delivered by ROSEN, J.:
Citation257 P.3d 339
PartiesSTATE of Kansas, Appellee,v.William E. McKNIGHT, Jr., Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 100,246.,100,246.
Decision Date12 August 2011

257 P.3d 339

STATE of Kansas, Appellee,
William E. McKNIGHT, Jr., Appellant.

No. 100,246.

Supreme Court of Kansas.

Aug. 12, 2011.

[257 P.3d 340]

Syllabus by the Court

1. K.S.A. 22–3716(b) authorizes a trial court revoking a defendant's probation to require the defendant to serve the sentence imposed, or any lesser sentence. A plain language reading of this section gives the trial court the authority to impose any sentence lesser than that originally imposed. Such a lesser sentence might be a shorter prison sentence, a shorter term of postrelease supervision, or any combination thereof.

2. Once a legal sentence is pronounced from the bench, the trial court does not have jurisdiction to modify the sentence. The sentence is effective upon pronouncement from the bench, regardless of the court's intent at the time the sentence is pronounced.

Carl Folsom, III, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellant.Natalie A. Chalmers, assistant district attorney, argued the cause, and Chadwick J. Taylor, district attorney, and Steve Six, attorney general, were with her on the brief for appellee.

The opinion of the court was delivered by ROSEN, J.:

William E. McKnight pleaded no contest to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and was sentenced to 30 months' incarceration with 24 months' postrelease supervision. Because his crime fell in a border box on the drug grid, the trial court suspended the sentence and put McKnight on an 18–month probation. When McKnight violated the terms of his probation, the court revoked McKnight's probation and imposed a modified sentence of 22 months' incarceration. After a discussion during the probation revocation hearing, the court concluded that postrelease supervision did not apply because McKnight's probation was being revoked for technical violations. The court ultimately imposed a sentence of 22 months' incarceration with no period of postrelease supervision.

Two months later, the State made an oral motion to correct an illegal sentence at a hearing with McKnight and his counsel present. The hearing was continued to allow the parties to review the transcript from the probation revocation hearing and conduct additional research. Two weeks later, with all parties present, the trial court found at the probation revocation hearing that “I mistakenly believed that there should have been no supervision in this particular case. I did not make a conscious decision to modify Mr. McKnight's sentence by not requiring post-release. It was more that I did not believe I could order post-release because it was a technical violation of probation.” The court then imposed the modified 22 months' incarceration with 24 months' postrelease supervision.

The Court of Appeals held that “[t]he mandatory period of postrelease supervision may

[257 P.3d 341]

not be reduced upon probation revocation unless K.S.A. 2008 Supp. 22–3716(e) is applicable to the offender.” State v. McKnight, 42 Kan.App.2d 945, Syl. ¶ 4, 219 P.3d 825 (2009). Therefore, the Court of Appeals found that the sentence originally imposed upon probation revocation was illegal and the trial court properly corrected the illegal sentence upon the State's motion. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court. McKnight, 42 Kan.App.2d at 948, 219 P.3d 825.


As an initial matter, the State filed a notice of change in custodial status on December 17, 2010, alleging that the Kansas Department of Corrections website, Kansas Adult Supervised Population Electronic Depository (KASPER), shows that McKnight was discharged from his sentence on October 12, 2010. We declined to issue a show cause order; instead, the notice was noted by the court on January 7, 2011. The only issue raised on appeal and in the petition for review is the sentencing issue regarding the trial court's reinstatement of the postrelease supervision period. If McKnight has been discharged and is no longer subject to postrelease supervision, the appeal would be moot. The State, however, did not argue that the case is moot, file a motion to dismiss based on a mootness argument, or provide any evidence beyond the notice filed in December.

“The general rule is that an appellate court does not decide moot questions or render advisory opinions. The mootness doctrine is one of court policy which recognizes that it is the function of a judicial tribunal to determine real controversies relative to the legal rights of persons and properties which are actually involved in the particular case properly brought before it and to adjudicate those rights in such manner that the determination will be operative, final, and conclusive.” Board of Johnson County Comm'rs v. Duffy, 259 Kan. 500, Syl. ¶ 1, 912 P.2d 716 (1996).

In State v. Upham, No. 97,961, ––– Kan.App.2d ––––, 2008 WL 1847703 (Kan.App.2008) (unpublished opinion), the Court of Appeals dismissed an appeal where the only issue was whether the trial court properly considered placement in Labette Correctional Conservation Camp because the defendant had finished the prison portion of the sentence. In Upham, the State moved to add to the record the KASPER printout and a form from the Kansas Department of Corrections indicating that the defendant had been released on supervised parole. The defendant did not respond to the State's mootness argument or deny that he had completed the contested part of his sentence. As a result, the Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal as moot.

Unlike Upham, the State made no further effort to argue or prove that this appeal is moot. As a result, the record will not support a holding that the appeal is moot. Further, we must consider whether the issue is one that is likely to reoccur.

“An appellate court may sometimes elect to entertain issues which, although moot, are subjects of real controversy and include issues of statewide interest and importance. Where a particular issue, although moot, is one capable of repetition and one of public importance, an appellate court may consider the appeal and render an opinion.” Duffy, 259 Kan. 500, Syl. ¶ 2, 912 P.2d 716.

Whether the trial court, at a probation revocation hearing, can impose a modified sentence that does not include a term of postrelease supervision is an issue that is likely to reoccur. Due to the length of time to complete a direct appeal, file a petition for review, and get the case docketed before this court, the issue is unlikely to arise in a case that is not moot.

Any Lesser Sentence

K.S.A. 22–3716(b) authorizes a trial court revoking a defendant's probation to “require the defendant to serve the sentence imposed, or any lesser sentence.” McKnight argues that the trial court, at the probation revocation hearing, had the statutory authority to impose a sentence that did not include postrelease supervision as a lawful “lesser sentence.” If the trial court imposed a lawful lesser sentence, the court was without

[257 P.3d 342]

jurisdiction to later modify that sentence. See, e.g., State v....

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  • State v. White, 122,039
    • United States
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    • August 6, 2021
    ...sentence from the bench, the district court lacks jurisdiction to later modify the sentence. State v. McKnight , 292 Kan. 776, 779, 257 P.3d 339 (2011) (citing State v. McCoin , 278 Kan. 465, 468, 101 P.3d 1204 [2004] ). But under K.S.A. 2020 Supp. 22-3504(a), courts have jurisdiction to co......
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