In State v. Hewey, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court found that the sentencing court erred in imposing a sentence that exceeded the maximum applicable period of incarceration for a Class A crime and accordingly vacated the sentence. Perhaps more importantly, the Law Court used the case as an “opportunity for clarification of [its] review of an appeal from a sentence imposed by the trial court.” A unanimous court sought to clear up some inconsistencies in previous decisions regarding “the terminology used to define each of the three steps” of the sentencing process by better describing the procedure “by which the significant purposes [of criminal sanction] and relevant factors may be articulated by the trial court in an individual case.” Moreover, the court opined that the three steps were “necessary . . . to achieve a greater uniformity in the sentencing process and to enable [the Law Court] to apply the correct standard of review to each of those steps.” The court’s decision in Hewey was an attempt to help sentencing judges more clearly articulate their sentencing rationale which would allow for more efficient review. The resulting process is commonly referred to as the Hewey analysis. Your analysis here is critical because of the standards of review clearly articulated by the Law Court in Hewey. In the Law Court’s sentence review, different standards of review are applied depending on which step of the Hewey analysis is at issue. The first step in the process is reviewed for misapplication of principle. This standard is less deferential than the abuse of discretion standard applied for the latter two. Because the trial court is in a superior position to evaluate the factors “peculiar to the particular offender,” the reviewing court grants greater deference to the weight and effect given these individualized factors by the sentencing court in determining the maximum period of incarceration and the amount that shall, if any, be suspended. However, the difficultly lies in defining the “principle” to be applied.

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