Brief Fact Summary. Appellant was convicted of possessing heroin. Appellant argued that he was an addict and had lost the power to control his addiction and should not be found guilty of the crime.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Appellant could never put the needle in his arm the first time nor the succeeding times without an exercise of free will.
(2) That a chronic alcoholic does not appear in public by his own volition but under a compulsion symptomatic of the disease of chronic alcoholism, (3) That Leroy Powell, defendant herein, is a chronic alcoholic who is afflicted with the disease of chronic alcoholism.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Whether Appellant could assert a defense that his addiction made him unable to conform his actions to the law and thus exculpate Appellant from liability.
Held. Appellant’s appeal is granted because the question of whether his actions were malicious was a question for the jury.
Appellant could never put the needle in his arm the first and many succeeding times without an exercise of will. Appellant’s illegal acquisition and possession was the direct product of a freely willed illegal act.
The drug addiction is a disease that Appellant has induced himself through a violation of the law
Every addict, at the start of their addiction, makes a choice of whether they are going to run the risk of becoming an addict.
Concurrence. The concurrence argued that if they were to allow drug addiction as a defense, they would have to allow it as a defense to other actions taken to acquire drugs or any other action under the influence of drugs. The criminal law cannot vary legal norms with the individual’s capacity to meet the standards they prescribe absent a gross and verifiable disability.
Dissent. The dissent argued that a drug addict should not be criminally liable for possession of narcotics that are solely for his own use. At least some addicts have the overpowering psychological and physiological need to possess and inject narcotics that cannot be overcome by free will. Because free will is a necessary basis for imposing criminal liability, if the defendant does not act in accordance with free will, he should not be punished.
Discussion. The Court ruled to allow the defendant’s argument would allow his argument to carry over to any type of illegal act which’s purpose was to obtain narcotics. Further, the Court notes that the addict who restrains himself from committing any other crimes except acquisition and possession demonstrates a greater degree of self control than most and thus a defense of loss of control is not valid.