MARSHALL V. UNITED STATES, 414 U. S. 417 (1974)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Marshall v. United States, 414 U.S. 417 (1974)

Marshall v. United States

No. 72-5881

Argued October 16-17, 1973

Decided January 9, 1974

414 U.S. 417


Petitioner, who had three prior felony convictions, moved for commitment as a narcotic addict pursuant to Title II of the Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act of 1966 (NARA), following a fourth felony conviction. The District Court held that the NARA's "two prior felony" exclusion precluded the requested commitment, rejecting petitioner's post-sentence motion to vacate his sentence on the ground that the "two prior felony" exclusion violated equal protection as embodied in the Fifth Amendment. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: Title II of NARA does not deny due process or equal protection by excluding from rehabilitative commitment, in lieu of penal incarceration, addicts with two or more prior felony convictions, since Congress could rationally assume that an addict with a multiple felony record is likely to benefit less from rehabilitative treatment, present a possible impediment to the successful treatment of others, and be a greater threat to society upon release, because of that record. Pp. 414 U. S. 422-430.

(a) In adopting the two-felony exclusion, Congress sought to exclude from NARA treatment (1) those less likely to be rehabilitated thereby and (2) those with a "history of serious crimes." Pp. 414 U. S. 423-425.

(b) Congress could reasonably assume that, because of the nature of addiction treatment, the multiple felony offender would less likely benefit from, and might interfere with, a rehabilitation program. Pp. 414 U. S. 425, 414 U. S. 428.

(c) Congress should have a wide latitude in formulating an experimental program like NARA, involving as it does medical and scientific uncertainties. Pp. 414 U. S. 427-428.

(d) In excluding multiple offenders, Congress could safeguard that experimental program from possible improper exploitation and also avoid a possible unacceptable risk to society represented by a reduced level of deterrence. Pp. 414 U. S. 429-430.

470 F.2d 34, affirmed.

BURGER, C.J.,delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ.,

Page 414 U. S. 418

joined. MARSHALL J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which DOUGLAS and BRENNAN, JJ., joined, post, p. 414 U. S. 430

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