digplanet beta 1: Athena
Share digplanet:


Applied sciences






















Robinson v. California
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued April 17, 1962
Decided June 25, 1962
Full case name Robinson v. California
Citations 370 U.S. 660 (more)
Prior history Appeal from the Appellate Department, Superior Court of California, Los Angeles County, 370 U.S. 660.
Punishing a person for a medical condition is a violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Stewart, joined by Warren, Black, Douglas, Harlan, Brennan
Concurrence Douglas
Concurrence Harlan
Dissent Clark
Dissent White
Frankfurter took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660 (1962)[1], 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 addiction to a controlled substance was a violation of the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

The Court ruled that the California law violated the cruel and unusual punishment clause as narcotics addiction "is apparently an illness", and California was attempting to punish people based on being in this state of illness, rather than for any specific act. A person guilty under this law, the Court noted, might never have taken any narcotics at all while in California, nor engaged in any destructive behavior.

Robinson was stopped by a police officer after he noticed apparent "tracks" on Robinson's arms. The officer claimed Robinson admitted that he had occasionally injected narcotics, though Robinson denied this and also denied being an addict. The police arrested him under a California law making it a misdemeanor to "be addicted to the use of narcotics"; Robinson was convicted, and sentenced to 90 days' imprisonment.

The Court wrote that though a 90-day prison sentence itself was neither cruel nor unusual in the abstract, the sentence was out of proportion to the "offense". By way of analogy, it wrote, "Even one day in prison would be a cruel and unusual punishment for the 'crime' of having a common cold." With this ruling the court established that in order for one to be charged with a criminal act, it was necessary for one to commit an "act."

Until the Robinson opinion, all decisions of the Court concerning "cruel and unusual punishment" had addressed either the kind of punishment meted out to the defendant or whether although conventional the punishment was disproportionate to the nature of the offense, as contrasted with whether the defendant's conduct merited punishment at all. For example, in Francis v. Resweber, 329 U.S. 459 (1947), the Court considered whether Louisiana could try a second time to electrocute a convicted murderer, after the first attempt failed because of a defect in the State's electric chair. (The Court held, 5-4, that re-electrocuting the defendant Frances was not cruel and unusual.) In Weems v. United States, 217 U.S. 349 (1910), the Court held that 15 years of imprisonment in chains and at hard labor was disproportionate to the offense of making false bookkeeping entries. In the Francis case, the Court gave as examples of cruel and unusual punishment, "burning at the stake, crucifixion, [and] breaking on the wheel." After the Robinson decision, courts placed increasing focus on whether it was appropriate to punish given conduct, such as public drunkenness.[1]

By June 25, 1962, the day the Court handed down this decision, Lawrence Robinson had already been dead for more than ten months. In fact, he was dead before his appeal papers were filed in the Supreme Court. The California Attorney General's office discovered this fact upon remand and notified the Court, since this arguably mooted the case long before its decision. The Court, however, did not vacate the Robinson decision as moot. See Robinson v. California, 371 U.S. 905 (1961) (order denying petition for rehearing and abatement of judgment with dissent).

In 1968, this case was used to challenge a Texas law against public intoxication in Powell v. Texas. The court made the distinction between a public behavior and a physical condition, and thus upheld the law and did not overrule Robinson.


  1. ^ See Powell v. Texas (unsuccessful 8th amendment challenge); Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003) (overturning state anti-sodomy law).

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Works related to Robinson v. California at Wikisource

  • ^ Text of Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660 (1962) is available from:  Findlaw  Justia 

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robinson_v._California — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
532752 videos foundNext > 

Sugar Ray Robinson fights Jake LaMotta 1

Sugar Ray Robinson fights Jake LaMotta great legendary battle alltime greats Want ripped, huge muscles without supplements? Go to MuscleNOW.com and use coupo...

Ken Robinson: How to escape education's death valley

Sir Ken Robinson outlines 3 principles crucial for the human mind to flourish -- and how current education culture works against them. In a funny, stirring t...

Simon & Garfunkel - Mrs. Robinson (Audio)

Music video by Simon & Garfunkel performing Mrs. Robinson. (C) 1968 Sony Music Entertainment.

Ray Robinson V Simon Hirst

Ray Robinson Professional Wrestler taking win against Simon Hirst.

Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?

http://www.ted.com Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) ...

Chris Robinson and The New Earth Mud - ...If you see California

This is one of my favorites songs by Chris Robinson & The New Earth Mud (Belongs to This Magnificient Distance from 2004) New Earth Mud are: Chris Robinson A...

GTA V - Smokey Robinson Cruisin'

Cruisin' Smokey Robinson Motown Legends: Smokey Robinson - The Ballad Album.

Say My Name (Cover by Jeremy Passion x Bluey Robinson x Jackie D Williams)

"Say My Name" by Destiny's Child (Cover by Jeremy Passion x Bluey Robinson x Jackie D Williams) During the month of May, I spent over 3 weeks in the lovely c...

Mrs. Robinson (acoustic Simon & Garfunkel cover) - Mike Masse and Jeff Hall

Available on iTunes! http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/mrs.-robinson-feat.-jeff-hall/id538715861?i=538716076 My sites: http://www.mikemasse.com http://www.fac...

Test Drive - Ferrari California - Robinson

Test Drive em Maranello/IT, da Ferrari California 2013. Piloto - Robinson Carlos Franco.

532752 videos foundNext > 

We're sorry, but there's no news about "Robinson v. California" right now.


Oops, we seem to be having trouble contacting Twitter

Talk About Robinson v. California

You can talk about Robinson v. California with people all over the world in our discussions.

Support Wikipedia

A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia. Please add your support for Wikipedia!