What is considered a violent felony in Kentucky? What does sentencing for a violent felony look like? What makes someone a violent offender in Kentucky? If you’ve been following the latest news from the Kentucky legislature, you might have heard about House Bill 5, also known as the Safer Kentucky Act. This bill, which goes into effect in July, brings some major changes to the way violent felonies are handled in the state and has overarching consequences regarding crime in general.

What Counts as a Violent Felony in Kentucky?

Under the new law, the list of violent felonies has become more extensive. This includes expanded definitions for murder and first and second-degree manslaughter. House Bill 5 also created a new offense – carjacking. Furthermore, if you’re caught using weapons that break state laws—like a stolen or defaced gun, or one loaded with restricted ammo—you won’t be eligible for jail release.

What Defines a Violent Offender in Kentucky?

House Bill 5 defines a violent offender as anyone convicted of or pleading guilty to the following offenses:

1. Commission or Attempted Commission of:
– A capital offense
– A Class A felony
– A felony sexual offense
2. Commission of:
– A felony involving the death of the victim or serious physical injury to a victim
– Use of a minor in a sexual performance
– Promoting a sexual performance by a minor
– Unlawful transaction with a minor in the first degree
– Human trafficking involving commercial sexual activity where the victim is a minor
– Criminal abuse in the first degree
– Burglary in the first degree accompanied by the commission or attempted commission of an assault
– Burglary in the first degree accompanied by commission or attempted commission of kidnapping
– Burglary in the first degree if a non-participant is present in the building during the offense
– Robbery in the first degree
– Robbery in the second degree
– Incest
– Arson in the first degree
– Strangulation in the first degree
– Carjacking
– A Class C felony violation of promoting contraband in the first degree
– Wanton endangerment in the first degree involving the discharge of a firearm

Tougher Sentences for Repeat Offenders

House Bill 5 increases the severity of repeat offenses. If you’re convicted of a third violent felony, meaning you have already been convicted of two separate violent felonies, expect even harsher sentencing. For non-capital offenses, a three-time violent offender will be sentenced to life imprisonment with no probation or parole. For capital offenses, a three-time violent offender could face either the death penalty or life imprisonment without the possibility of probation or parole. Note that when determining if a person has two or more separate violent felony convictions, multiple convictions that resulted in continuous prison terms will be considered as one conviction, unless one of the offenses was committed while the person was already in prison.

Restrictions on Charitable Bail

House Bill 5 also prohibits charitable bail organizations from posting bail over $5,000. Charitable bail organizations are also completely prohibited from bailing out anyone accused of domestic violence, dating abuse, or a violent felony, as described above. Furthermore, charitable bail organizations are restricted from posting bail for anyone who has previously received bail assistance from such an organization.

Measures Affecting Homeless Individuals

Criminal Street Camping: If you knowingly enter or stay in an area not meant for sleeping or camping, such as intending to sleep or camp there without permission, it is a violation for the first offense, and a Class B misdemeanor for subsequent offenses. Note that sleeping for less than 12 hours in your vehicle parked lawfully on a public road, street, or parking lot does not count as unlawful camping.

Temporary Camping Areas: Counties may designate commercial or industrial areas as temporary camping locations for unsheltered homeless individuals. These areas must contain drinkable water and appropriate sanitary facilities. Any homeless individual that uses one of these designated areas will not be in violation of criminal street camping laws.

Homeless Housing Criteria: State, local, and federal funds may not be used for permanent housing programs for homeless individuals unless these programs include behavioral and rehabilitative criteria. These requirements must include ceasing or refraining from drug abuse and excessive alcohol consumption, consenting to mental health treatment, and refraining from criminal activity. There are some exceptions to this, such as domestic violence shelters.

Sentencing and Parole Changes

Violent offenders now have to serve at least 50% of their sentence before they can be considered for parole, probation, or any early release programs. For felony sex crimes, sentences will run consecutively, not concurrently.

New Protections and Rules

– First Responders: Killing a first responder now carries more severe penalties, including the death penalty and mandatory restitution.
– Shopkeeper Liability: House Bill 5 limits liability for shopkeepers in certain situations.

Additional Changes to Know

– Harsher Fentanyl Laws: Promoting contraband in the first degree if the contraband is fentanyl, carfentanil, or a fentanyl derivative, is now a Class B felony.
– Aid for Overdosers: Protection for those helping overdose victims.
– Lower Threshold for Criminal Mischief: Now, damages of $500 will count as Criminal Mischief in the First Degree, a Class D felony.
– Intimidation and Harassment: Harassing communications are now considered intimidation in the legal process.
– Fleeing and Evading Police: This crime now has tougher penalties, with first-degree evasion bumped to a Class C felony and second-degree to a Class D felony.

If you’ve been charged with a crime call John Olash – Criminal Attorney in Kentucky