Robinson v. California

Robinson v. California  (1962) 

Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660 (1962), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that the use of civil imprisonment as punishment solely for the misdemeanor crime of "using" or being under the influence of a controlled substance was a violation of the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

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Supreme Court of the United States

370 U.S. 660

Robinson  v.  California

Appeal from the Appellate Department, Superior Court of California, Los Angeles County

No. 554  Argued: April 17, 1962 --- Decided: June 25, 1962

A California statute makes it a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for any person to "be addicted to the use of narcotics," and, in sustaining petitioner's conviction thereunder, the California courts construed the statute as making the "status" of narcotic addiction a criminal offense for which the offender may be prosecuted "at any time before he reforms," even though he has never used or possessed any narcotics within the State and has not been guilty of any antisocial behavior there.

Held: As so construed and applied, the statute inflicts a cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Pp. 660-668.