ROBINSON v. CALIFORNIA

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
554
Appellee 
California
Appellant 
Robinson
Decided By 
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the appellant)
(Argued the cause for the appellee)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

A California statute made it a criminal offense for a person to "be addicted to the use of narcotics." Lawrence Robinson was convicted under the law, which required a sentence of at least ninety days in jail. A state appellate court affirmed Robinson's conviction on appeal.

Question 

Was the California law an infliction of cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment?

Conclusion 
Decision: 6 votes for Robinson, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 8: Cruel and Unusual Punishment

In a 6-to-2 decision, the Court held that laws imprisoning persons afflicted with the "illness" of narcotic addiction inflicted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Court likened the law to one making it a criminal offense "to be mentally ill, or a leper, or to be afflicted with a venereal disease," and argued that the state could not punish persons merely because of their "status" of addiction. The Court noted that the law was not aimed at the purchase, sale, or possession of illegal drugs.

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ROBINSON v. CALIFORNIA. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 27 July 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1961/1961_554>.
ROBINSON v. CALIFORNIA, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1961/1961_554 (last visited July 27, 2014).
"ROBINSON v. CALIFORNIA," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed July 27, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1961/1961_554.