As an example, consider the case of Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660 (1962) where Mr. Robinson was found guilty of a misdemeanor for violating California Health and Safety Code §11550 which criminalized addiction. e Supreme Court overturned this conviction through a majority opinion that held punishment for the status of having a disease violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Robinson is most famously compared and contrasted by the justices in Powell v. Texas, 392 U.S. 514 (1968). In Powell, the homeless defendant argued that he was being punished for a “status” crime like Robinson when he was arrested for being publicly intoxicated because he claimed (likely legitimately) that he was a “chronic alcoholic.” e court did not change course and overturn its Robinson prohibition of punishing a status crime, but rather, decided that Powell was fundamentally a dierent situation. Although both defendants may be addicts, Powell was being punished for public intoxication, actus reas, not his status of being an alcoholic.
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