This essay assignment challenges you to express comprehension, application, and evaluation of the law’s prohibition on punishing status as a crime. As described in more detail below, the assignment asks you to explain how the law defines status as distinct from conduct, and how courts have applied that definition in different cases. Next the assignment asks you to apply the law to a different hypothetical scenario. In doing so, you will be challenged to think critically about the underlying reasons for why the law prevents punishing status as a crime.
Begin by reviewing the cases of Robinson v. California [Robinson] and Powell v. Texas [Powell] in your book. Also read the shortened version of the recent case, Martin v. City of Boise [Martin], that I have provided below. You do not need to do any additional reading, and you should not cite any outside sources in your essay. The assignment here is focused on critical thinking and writing about the source provided – not on outside research.
In the first part of your essay, explain why the courts decided that the statutes in Robinson and Martin violated the Constitution whereas the statute in Powell did not violate the Constitution. Your answer should clearly state what part of the Constitution the courts relied upon, specify exactly what was being punished as a crime in each case, and explain the difference between status and conduct. Your answer should explain what features of the Martin case made the Court of Appeals see Martin more like Robinson than like Powell.
In the second part of your essay, consider the following hypothetical scenario. Imagine there is a town called Poise that is exactly the same as the City of Boise described in Martin, except the city has 10 homeless shelters that have more than enough beds for all the homeless people in the city. All the shelters in Poise, however, turn away homeless people if they fail a breathalyzer test for alcohol or a urine test for narcotics. If you were a judge, would you rule that the Camping and Disorderly Conduct statutes in Poise violate the Constitution as they did in Boise? Why or why not? Then explain what you think is the best counterargument to your position that the other side could make, and respond to that counterargument.