State v. Davidson




Oregon Supreme Court

Citation and Year

380 P.3d 963 (Or. 2016)

Constitutional Provision or State Statute

Oregon Const., art. 1, §16 (“Cruel and unusual punishments shall not be inflicted. All penalties shall be proportioned to the nature of the offense.”)

Nature of Case

The respondent was convicted of two counts of public indecency for exposing himself at a public park. Because of two prior convictions for public indecency, he received two consecutive sentences of life without the possibility of parole — a result of Oregon’s sentence enhancements for multiple sex offense convictions. On appeal, respondent argued that such sentence enhancements are disproportionate, and therefore in violation of Oregon’s state constitution, as applied to his particular case.


Under Oregon’s antipunishment clause, “a life sentence imposed pursuant to a recidivist statute was disproportionate to the defendant’s crime, public indecency, where the defendant’s criminal history ‘include[d] no offenses more serious than public indecency (and no other misconduct that otherwise support[ed] a conclusion that he pose[d] a significant physical danger to society).’”


First, the court set forth the framework for the analysis of as-applied disproportionality challenges to a life sentence: “(1) a comparison of the severity of the penalty and the gravity of the crime; (2) a comparison of the penalties imposed for other, related crimes; and (3) the criminal history of the defendant.” As the court’s analysis makes clear, this is a fact-intensive inquiry that depends on just the charged crimes for the current and prior offenses, but the actual conduct committed and the harm that it caused — a caveat that is especially important for broad charges such as “public indecency,” which can capture a wide range of conduct.

Here, the court concluded that where “a criminal defendant—even an incorrigible one—has a criminal history that includes no offenses more serious than public indecency (and no other misconduct that otherwise supports a conclusion that he poses a significant physical danger to society), a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for public indecency is unconstitutionally disproportionate under Article I, section 16.”