The Maine Court had good reason to reject Custis. Between 1967 when Burgett announced the rule that a current sentence could not be enhanced based on an unconstitutional prior sentence and 1994 when Custis limited the scope of that rule, all but one of the federal circuit courts to consider the issue held the Burgett Court’s rationale for barring the use of a conviction obtained in violation of Gideon must apply to other constitutional rights as well. The arguments for limiting collateral attacks on prior convictions at sentencing to only claims of Gideon violations are unpersuasive. Faced with the decision of either following Custis or rejecting it, the Montana Supreme Court wisely chose to reject it. It may find in the future, however, that there are good reasons to restrict the scope of Maine to exclude claims that don’t undermine confidence in the reliability of a prior conviction.
Paul M. Leisher,
Examining Montana's Right to Attack Unconstitutional Prior Convictions at Sentencing: State v. Maine,
74 Mont. L. Rev.
Available at: http://scholarship.law.umt.edu/mlr/vol74/iss1/9