SOLEM v. HELM

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
82-492
Petitioner 
Solem
Respondent 
Helm
Advocates
(By appointment of the Court, argued the cause for the respondent)
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

Helm was convicted of writing a check from a fictitious account, a crime carrying with it a five-year jail sentence. However, since this was his seventh felony conviction in South Dakota since 1964, he was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole under a state recidivist statute.

Question 

Did the sentence violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for Helm, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 8: Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Yes. Since all of Helm's prior offenses, including his current check-writing conviction, had been "relatively minor" and were not crimes against people, Justice Powell held that Helm had "received the penultimate sentence (South Dakota did not have the death penalty) for relatively minor criminal conduct." Powell concluded that Helm was treated more harshly than the state's most violent criminals.

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SOLEM v. HELM. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 23 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1982/1982_82_492>.
SOLEM v. HELM, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1982/1982_82_492 (last visited October 23, 2014).
"SOLEM v. HELM," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 23, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1982/1982_82_492.