Washington Law Review


Andrew H. Mun


In Harmelin v. Michigan, the United States Supreme Court held (5-4) that a legislatively-mandated life sentence without parole for possession of 672.5 grams of cocaine did not violate the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment. In reaching the result, two Justices abrogated the proportionality principle in the Eighth Amendment and three Justices abridged the proportionality standard promulgated in Solem v. Helm. This Note examines the Harmelin decision and suggests that the Court does not adequately justify abrogating or limiting the Solem proportionality standard. This Note recommends application of the Solem proportionality standard and concludes that imposition of a mandatory life sentence without parole for drug possession is unconstitutional.

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