Sunday, November 17, 2013

Powell v. Texas case brief

Powell v. Texas case brief summary
392 U.S. 514 (1968)

Defendant was convicted of being found in a state of intoxication in a public place, in violation of Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 477 (1952). The County Court at Law No. 1 of Travis County, Texas affirmed the conviction and defendant petitioned for certiorari.

Defendant argued that he was afflicted with the disease of chronic alcoholism and that his appearance in public while drunk was not of his own volition. Defendant argued that to punish him for that conduct would be cruel and unusual, in violation of the Eight and Fourteenth Amendments.


  • The court held that there was no agreement among members of the medical community that the condition of chronic alcoholism was a disease. 
  • The district court's finding that defendant was afflicted with the disease of chronic alcoholism was problematic because the district court failed to articulate what symptoms would be required to make out a constitutional defense, should one be recognized. 
  • Defendant's conviction did not warrant reversal under the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause because the district court did not seek to punish a mere status; instead, it imposed a criminal sanction for public behavior which might create health and safety issues.

The court granted certiorari and affirmed defendant's conviction for being intoxicated in a public place.

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