United States Supreme Court
392 U.S. 514 (1968)
Leroy Powell (defendant) was arrested for public intoxication, in violation of state law. Powell argued that his conduct was unavoidably caused by his disease of chronic alcoholism. He further argued that punishing him for conduct that was symptomatic of his disease would constitute cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. In support of his theory, Powell had Dr. David Wade, a certified psychiatrist, testify as to his condition. Wade stated that although there is no clear definition of chronic alcoholism, one who suffers from that condition drinks involuntarily. He further stated that Powell was a chronic alcoholic who could not control his behavior because he has a strong compulsion to begin drinking, and that once he begins drinking, he has an uncontrollable compulsion to drink excessively. The trial court held that chronic alcoholism is not a defense to the charge of public drunkenness. It did, however, allow Powell to submit three findings of fact: (1) that chronic alcoholism is a disease that overpowers one’s will to resist the continuous and excessive consumption of alcohol; (2) that a chronic alcoholic who goes out in public does so due to his disease, not out of free will; and (3) that Powell was a chronic alcoholic. Powell was convicted of the charged crime.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Marshall, J.)
Concurrence (Black, J.)
Concurrence (White, J.)
Dissent (Fortas, J.)
What to do next…
Unlock this case brief with a free (no-commitment) trial membership of Quimbee.
You’ll be in good company: Quimbee is one of the most widely used and trusted sites for law students, serving more than 97,000 law students since 2011. Some law schools—such as Yale, Vanderbilt, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois—even subscribe directly to Quimbee for all their law students. Read our student testimonials.
Learn more about Quimbee’s unique (and proven) approach to achieving great grades at law school.
Quimbee is a company hell-bent on one thing: helping you get an “A” in every course you take in law school, so you can graduate at the top of your class and get a high-paying law job. We’re not just a study aid for law students; we’re the study aid for law students. Read more about Quimbee.
Here's why 202,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:
- Written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students. 14,000 briefs, keyed to 188 casebooks. Top-notch customer support.
- The right amount of information, includes the facts, issues, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents.
- Access in your classes, works on your mobile and tablet. Massive library of related video lessons and high quality multiple-choice questions.
- Easy to use, uniform format for every case brief. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Our briefs summarize and simplify; they don’t just repeat the court’s language.