The Prohibition of "Status" Crimes Case: Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660 (1962) [p.


Summary: Robinson was convicted for being addicted to the use of narcotics, per a CA statute that makes it a criminal offense. The SC reversed that decision, stating that it was cruel and unusual punishment to imprison a person merely for being addicted, even though they never used narcotics in that state or been guilty of irregular behavior. o This is an illness. It is not voluntary. We cannot punish someone for a disease b/c it's not voluntary to have the disease (addiction). o There was no "act" in the State. RULE: It can not be a crime to have a "status" of something; there must be an act. Concurring: Agreed statute was unconstitutional, but said this because you cant punish someone for having the desire to commit a crime. So even though narcotic use is a crime, his addiction to narcotics, is the desire to commit a crime. But without the actual use, there could be no criminal act. Dissent: The fact that he's addicted is a strong indication that he uses narcotics. Dissent argues that it is no less constitutional than convicting him on evidence that he actually uses. Class Notes • In Powell v. Texas, it was a public intoxication statute. How is Δ trying to use Robinson in his case, by invoking the illness. o Addicts are sick, and acted involuntarily. o Powell argues that he cant help being an alcoholic, it's a disease. It's involuntary.  But conviction upheld. The statute in question punished the act of being drunk while in public, not the status of just being an alcoholic. This statute fine b/c it punishes an act. It doesn’t become unconstitutional just because Δ committed the act while suffering from his disease, alcoholism. • RULE: It's unconstitutional to punish someone who has not committed an act. Notes: • 2 possible rationales for this decision: o Involuntary conduct cannot be punished. Robinson cannot stop being an addict without medical assistance. Hence, he is an addict involuntarily. o Punishment must be for past, not future, conduct. Being an addict implies the desire or propensity to commit punishable acts in the future. • Homeless case o Want to enjoin the city from enforcing statutes that prohibit public acts that they need to do in public b/c they're homeless.

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