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Court turned to the specific constitutional objections…cont

Bearing in mind the basic purpose of the statute, the Court turned to the specific constitutional objections. It is argued that the statements obtained from an alleged addict by the commission’s examining physician and which are then received in evidence to support the finding of addiction are inadmissible by reason of the fact that they were obtained in the absence of counsel.

These medical examinations, however, are used solely for diagnostic purposes. Any admission made to the doctor may not be received in evidence at the trial on the criminal charges. As the program is intended solely for the addict’s benefit, self incrimination becomes irrelevant. The addiction hearing is not designed as a means of giving an added sentence, but is intended to serve the function of assuring that the physician’s conclusion that the defendant is an addict is soundly based. It is the nonincriminating purpose of the examination that makes the privilege against self incrimination and the right to counsel inoperative at the physical examination.
All jails in some measure seek to have a program of rehabilitation, but in upholding, by way of dictum, a compulsory civil commitment program for narcotics rehabilitation. If compulsory commitment turns out in fact to be a veneer for an extended jail term and is not a fully developed, comprehensive and effective scheme, it will have lost its claim to be a project devoted solely to curative ends. It will then take on the characteristics of normal jail sentence, with a side order of special help. The moment that the program begins to serve the traditional purposes of criminal punishment, such as deterrence, preventive detention, or retribution, then the extended denial of liberty is simply no different from a prison sentence and the constitutional guarantees applicable to criminal proceedings will apply in full measure.

It is the reality that counts, not the metaphysical distinctions of the legal mind. For the same reason, it is not every deprivation of liberty that will bring into play all the constitutional provisions applicable to criminal trials. It is only those curtailments of liberty which serve the traditional purposes of the criminal law which require the full protections of a criminal trial.

A somewhat similar analysis will resolve the difficulties presented by the claim that the standard applied in criminal trials–proof of addiction beyond a reasonable doubt, rather than the prescribed preponderance of evidence –is necessary for a finding of addiction. Since the purpose of the certification is a rehabilitative one, it is legitimate to analogize it to a civil proceeding commenced against a noncriminal addict where the finding also may be made by a preponderance of the evidence. Nor can it be asserted that a higher burden is necessary to protect the alleged addict from a wrongful determination. The deprivation of his liberty will last only so long as is necessary to carry out the program of rehabilitation. The Court will not assume that the commission or its medical personnel with continue to deprive a person of his liberty if they determine that he is not truly an addict.

One final argument made is that requiring jury trials will impose a tremendous burden on the courts. Something more than this is required. Since the drug possession addiction hearing for civil commitments and for convicted addicts are alike both in substance and consequence, a jury trial must be available to the appellants here.

Nonconstitutional arguments have also been argued. The first is a question of statutory construction, and the second involves the scope of cross-examination of medical experts in addiction hearings.

There is no question that the statutory language is of little assistance in determining the Legislature’s intent. Some provisions indicate appellants’ contentions are correct, while others would support the People’s position that the ‘intake’ examination–even where no examination for addiction has been specifically ordered by the arraigning Judge–may serve a dual purpose of not only ascertaining the general state of appellants’ health but, additionally, whether a prisoner is addicted to drugs. However, as the purpose of the privilege is to induce persons to seek medical assistance by removing any fear that they will suffer embarrassment or disgrace or that any information disclosed to the physician will not be used adverse to them, the use of information obtained at intake examination or during the giving of medical treatment runs counter to this purpose if, as it appears, addicts consider the custody of the commission adverse to their interests. Moreover, the intake examination is also used to protect the general health of the inmate population, and its usefulness may well be impaired by a rule of disclosure. How the Legislature weighed these considerations is not easily discernable. Sometimes assault is a part of this situation.

But these medical criteria do not have the force of law and they do not constitute the definition required by the statute. Since the court permitted the doctor to state the general conclusion that the patient was an addict, it was certainly proper cross-examination for defense counsel to ask the doctor what his interpretation of addiction was and, in reaching his conclusion, what weight he gave to each fact or criterion. The purpose no doubt was to ascertain if there was any discrepancy between the doctor’s views and general medical opinion, and also to see if there was reason behind the conclusion. CPLR 4515 expressly permits such questions: ‘Upon cross-examination, he may be required to specify the data and other criteria supporting the opinion.’ While the chief purpose of this provision was to get away from hypotheticals.

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