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Skinner v. Oklahoma

Law Dictionary
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Constitutional Law Keyed to Stone

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 316 U.S. 535, 62 S. Ct. 1110, 86 L. Ed. 1655, 1942 U.S. 493.

Brief Fact Summary. Under Oklahoma law, a person convicted a third time of certain specified crimes involving “moral turpitude” received the punishment of sterilization. Persons convicted a third time of other similar crimes were not. The constitutionality of this distinction was brought into question.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. When the law concerning those who have committed intrinsically the same type of offense punishes one, but not the other by depriving the one of a fundamental right, an invidious discrimination has been made.


Facts. Oklahoma’s Habitual Criminal Sterilization Act (the Act) defined a “habitual criminal” as a person who has been convicted three of more times for crimes involving moral turpitude. Such persons under Oklahoma law were to be rendered sexually sterile. Multiple violations for offenses involving “prohibitory laws” such as revenue acts, embezzlement or political offenses were exempted from punishment under the Act. Petitioner, convicted of stealing chickens for a third offense, was convicted under the Act. The alleged purpose of the law was to prevent the passing on to future generations of criminal traits.

Issue. Was the Act, calling for the sterilization of certain multiple offenders but not others, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution)?
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