Had Robinson v. California been decided fifty years ago, the decision would probably have been to allow the conviction of a narcotic addict. But with scientific knowledge of the nature and methods of treatment for narcotics addiction developed to what it is today, the Court could only say that narcotics addiction is not truly a type of criminal conduct. Inherent in Robinson is all the medical knowledge that has been gained in recent years. As medical and scientific knowledge increase, especially in the fields of mental and emotional illness, perhaps even greater emphasis will be placed upon treatment of wrongdoers, rather than upon their punishment. Indeed, to the extent that nearly all criminal activity is the result of emotional or social maladjustment, perhaps some future generation will see the termination of penal sanctions as we know them today. For the immediate future, Robinson places in question the constitutional validity of laws which merely punish convicted persons where no purpose of deterrence, rehabilitation, or prevention of crime is or reasonably can be hoped for. Robinson is merely the formal judicial declaration of a principle of mercy which is certainly as old as the criminal law itself.
Calvin E. Robinson,
Constitutional Law—Statute Making the Status of Being a Drug Addict a Crime Held Unconstitutional—Robinson v. California (Sup. Ct. 1962),
42 Neb. L. Rev. 685
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