Through exhaustive and collective work, the few surviving Maya codices (bark books) and surviving Mayan pottery are starting to reveal some of their secrets including aspects of the Maya Law Code.
The Maya imposed severe penalties on those who threatened social cohesion by committing crimes such as murder or adultery. The Maya did not accept that bad things could happen by accident, for they viewed every event as the fulfillment of patterns that could be read in the stars and maybe in the past, and which were set in motion by the gods.
A hunter who killed another man by accident in the forest was just as guilty of murder as a man who killed another before witnesses in a quarrel. The unfortunate hunter must have been chosen by the gods to meet his end. Similarly, a human who lost or damaged someone else’s belongings by accident was treated as if he or she had done it with intent and was required to compensate the unfortunate victim.
Those who had no wealth of their own with which to pay compensation, nor wealthy relatives to provide help, faced slavery. But, they would be freed once they had worked off the money they owed to the victim
The punishment for murder was death. The murderer was placed in stocks and put to death by the relatives of the person he had killed.
A person caught stealing would be thrown into slavery immediately to compensate for his crime, but once the value of the theft was paid off, he was free to continue his life.
Maya hunters were very serious about their obligation to respect the jungle and the animals that lived there. It appears that killing an animal for no reason was seen akin to murder and subject to discipline.
Punishments were carried out immediately; the Maya did not keep jails for thieves, adulterers or murderers.