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Name: People v. Kellogg
Case #: D042696
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 06/17/2004

California’s statute prohibiting public intoxication does not impose cruel and unusual punishment even when a defendant sentenced under that law is a homeless alcoholic. The evidence below showed that the defendant suffered from severe alcoholism along with other mental ailments, and that he was homeless when he was discovered intoxicated and incoherent in some bushes under an embankment off of a freeway. Relying on Robinson v. California (1962) 370 U.S. 660, defendant argued that application of Penal Code section 647, subdivision (f), was cruel and unusual punishment because the statute as applied punished him because of his addiction. The court rejected this argument, noting that the statute criminalizes conduct rather than status as an addict, because it requires that the defendant be unable to care for his own and the public’s safety. The court declined to serve as a policy maker to determine whether a more effective strategy should be employed to deal with homeless addicts. One justice dissented, finding that the conviction under these facts “‘shocks the conscience and offends fundamental notions of human dignity,'” and thus violates state constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.