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In re De La O
California Supreme Court
378 P.2d 793 (1963)
David De La O (defendant) was convicted of unlawfully using and being addicted to narcotics, which was a misdemeanor. Instead of sentencing De La O, the court instituted commitment proceedings. These proceedings were authorized by a penal-code section that allowed the state to involuntarily commit and treat any criminal defendant who was addicted to narcotics or in imminent danger of becoming addicted. The commitment consisted of confinement by the Department of Corrections, i.e., the state’s prison system, for a minimum of six months because narcotics withdrawal and rehabilitation took at least that long. Although the maximum confinement was five years, a person could be released early if rehabilitation was successful. De La O was committed for five years of compulsory treatment for his narcotics addiction. De La O was confined with other committed people in a facility that did not house prisoners. The commitment facility offered psychiatric help, counselors, vocational and educational assistance, and multiple opportunities for group and personal therapy. However, like all people who were voluntarily or involuntarily treated at the commitment facility, De La O was required to undergo the same intake procedures as a prisoner, deprived of numerous individual rights, and deemed a prisoner for purposes of the laws against escaping from the ordered confinement. Further, De La O’s ability to be released early was controlled by the same parole agency that handled prisoner paroles. De La O filed a habeas corpus petition, arguing that the state’s confinement order was punishing him for being ill, which was cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the United States Constitution.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Schauer, J.)
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