- 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).
Continue reading below
Cross-Examination Trial Pack
NACDL’s new Cross-Examination Trial Pack includes three of our best-selling Cross-Examination resources: “Damage Control: Situational Cross-Examination Techniques Trial Guide”, "Ultimate Cross 2.0: Audio Recordings & Written Materials" and "Sample Cross-Examination Questions."
This masterful collection of cross-examination resources provide countless tips, techniques and strategies for a variety of criminal case-specific scenarios. Learn to cross-examine a variety of trial witnesses!
Death Investigation: Forensic Pathology in the Courtroom and Cause & Manner of Death (2022)
This unique program provides criminal defense lawyers with an accurate and clear overview of forensic pathology and the countless factors to consider in a death investigation and will methodically explain what happens during an autopsy to determine cause and manner of death.
You'll uncover the different types of medicolegal death investigations, what to request from your MDI expert, quality benchmarks for accreditation and certification, guidelines and standards, common terminology and frequently asked questions.
The Psychology of Persuasion & Storytelling for Criminal Defense Lawyers
This Trial Resource Guide is a masterful collection of practical tips, techniques and strategies focused solely on using the arts and sciences of persuasion to improve your storytelling skills at trial.
You'll learn how to master the ability to communicate with juries, deliver powerful openings and closings, perform convincing cross-examinations, use effective courtroom choreography and non-verbal communication, identify and develop the optimal theme and theory for your case, and offer compelling arguments during mitigation and sentencing.
Zealous Advocacy in Sexual Assault & Child Victims Cases (2022)
Defending charges of sexual assault and child abuse can be daunting — but with the right tools, it doesn’t have to be.
Every year, NACDL identifies the hottest topics and most pressing issues when defending these cases, and brings-in nationally-renowned lawyers and experts to help you prepare for battle. This year’s 13th Annual Defending Sex Cases training program is our best yet; packed with topics and speakers you won’t want to miss!
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.