- Maine has abolished the death penalty, and no longer allows discretionary parole.
- Maine allows for discretionary LWOP and JLWOP. See 17-A M.R.S. § 1251.
- Maine has no minimum age for transfer of a juvenile to adult court.
Me. Const. Art. I, § 9 (2011)
§ 9. Sanguinary laws, excessive bail, cruel or unusual punishments prohibited. Sanguinary laws shall not be passed; all penalties and punishments shall be proportioned to the offense; excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel nor unusual punishments inflicted.
NOTE: While often discussed in conjunction with the Eighth Amendment, Article I, Section 9 contains a separate proportionality clause. Maine Courts have not foreclosed the possibility that Article I, Section 9 may be broader than the Eighth Amendment.
- Sentencing Guidelines System – Maine does not have a guidelines system.
- Habitual Offender Statute – Maine does not have a specific statute which addresses recidivist sentencing.
The illegality of a sentence may be raised on direct appeal as a matter of right. State v. Ward, 2011 ME 74, P14 (Me. 2011).
All acts of the Legislature are presumed constitutional. State v. Gilman, 2010 ME 35, P13 (Me. 2010). The challenging party bears the burden of proving unconstitutionality by “strong and convincing reasons.” Id.
Upon plea of guilty, a defendant does not have a right to review of the conviction by direct appeal unless he challenges “the sufficiency of the indictment, the jurisdiction of the court to try him, or the excessive or cruel and unusual nature of the punishment.” State v. Vane, 322 A.2d 58 (Me. 1974)
State Constitution & Proportionality
Maine looks primarily to the language of the Maine Constitution to interpret its meaning. State v. Gilman, 2010 ME 35, P16-P17 (Me. 2010). If the language is unambiguous, the plain meaning of the provision should stand. Looking to the plain language of Article I, Section 9, the provision requires that “punishments shall be proportioned to the offense,” and does not require reference to the individual characteristics of the offender. Id.; State v. Ward, 2011 ME 74, P15 (Me. 2011).
Unlike the Eighth Amendment, the Article I, Section 9 of the Maine Constitution contains a proportionality clause separate from the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Me. Const. art. I, § 9, cls. 2, 5. Nevertheless, Maine recognizes that these concepts are related. State v. Gilman, 2010 ME 35, ¶ 14 n.6; State v. Ward, 2011 ME 74, P15 (Me. 2011).
Maine has established a two-part test to determine whether a sentence violates Article I, Section 9: First, the court should ask whether the sentence imposed is greatly disproportionate to the offense. Second, the court should ask whether the sentence offends prevailing notions of decency, shocking the conscious of the public or our collective or respective sense of fairness. If the sentence satisfies either part of the test, the sentence is unconstitutional. State v. Ward, 2011 ME 74, P15-P18 (Me. 2011); See State v. Frye, 390 A.2d 520, 521 (Me. 1978) (a “sentence is not cruel and unusual punishment unless the sentence is greatly disproportionate to the offense or the punishment offends prevailing notions of decency.").
Only the most extreme punishment established by the Legislature may be found unconstitutionally disproportionate. State v. Ward, 2011 ME 74, P15-P18 (Me. 2011); State v. Gilman, 2010 ME 35, P22-P23 (Me. 2010).
A mandatory sentence may not be unconstitutionally disproportionate under Article I, Section 9 of the Maine Constitution. State v. Gilman, 2010 ME 35, P14 (Me. 2010).
When a felony statute does not specify a mandatory sentence, the sentencing court must first consider the nature and the seriousness of the crime, and determine a basic sentence. Then, the court must consider any aggravating or mitigating factors to determine a maximum sentence for the offender. Finally, the court must determine if any of the maximum sentence should be suspended before arriving at a final sentence. State v. Gilman, 2010 ME 35, P20 (Me. 2010).
Consecutive sentencing does not increase the penalties for the individual crimes, and do not become a single sentence by virtue of their consecutive nature. State v. Ward, 2011 ME 74, P22 (Me. 2011) (citing State v. Keene, 2007 ME 84, ¶¶ 25-26 (Me. 2007)). Therefore, in a proportionality challenge to consecutive sentences, the offender is limited to challenging each individual sentence separately. Id.
While the following cases mention the cruel and unusual punishment provisions of both the federal and Maine Constitutions, the courts do not provide any separate, significant analysis of Article I, Section 9 of the Maine Constitution:
- State v. Mudie, 508 A.2d 119, 121 (Me. 1986) – Court declined to address constitutional issues because they were raised for the first time on appeal.
- State v. Alexander, 257 A.2d 778, 783 (Me. 1969) –
- Duncan v. Ulmer, 159 Me. 266, 285 (Me. 1963) –
Citations To Graham
State v. Ward, 2011 ME 74, P16-P19 (Me. 2011) – Court uses Graham to discuss narrow proportionality principle of the Eighth Amendment.
A Defender’s Guide to Federal Evidence: A Trial Practice Handbook for Criminal Defense Attorneys
This Guide to Federal Evidence is the only federal evidence handbook written exclusively for criminal defense lawyers. The Guide analyzes each Federal Rule of Evidence and outlines the main evidentiary issues that confront criminal defense lawyers. It also summarizes countless defense favorable cases and provides tips on how to avoid common evidentiary pitfalls. The Guide contains multiple user-friendly flowcharts aimed at helping the criminal defense lawyer tackle evidence problems. A Defender’s Guide to Federal Evidence is an indispensable tool in preparing a case for trial.
Modern Digital Evidence & Technologies in Criminal Cases
Modern cases need modern defenses, and modern lawyers can't practice with an outdated playbook. This program is a contemporary training that identifies emerging technologies and digital evidence encountered in today's criminal cases and arms you with the tools necessary to combat expert witnesses, prosecutorial overreach, and an uneducated judge and jury. This comprehensive CLE program covers both general aspects of new technologies as well as practical courtroom application and legal challenges to the use of these new technologies.
Top Shelf DUI Defenses: The Law, The Science, The Techniques (2021)
If you are serious about being an effective DUI defense advocate, or if you’re considering adding DUI defenses to your portfolio, you need to know the latest scientific and legal strategies to optimize your success at trial. Learn from the best-of-the-best in the field in this unique CLE Program, updated for 2021.
Defending Modern Drug Cases (2021)
From challenging the arrest and seizure to picking a jury and cross-examining police officers, defense attorneys handling drug cases must be able to construct a defense that will increase the chances of the client getting a positive result for your client.
Effective motion practice, juror selection, and storytelling have never been more important. This seminar will introduce defense counsel to techniques that have been used at recent drug trials to rebut specific claims and overcome the emotion created in today’s criminal legal system.