Addiction x Criminal Law

56 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2020

See all articles by Dawinder S. Sidhu

Dawinder S. Sidhu

University of Maryland at Shady Grove

Date Written: March 7, 2020


As moral considerations, social attitudes, and scientific knowledge evolve as to a specific issue, so too must legal principles governing that issue. This Article aims to update the relationship between addiction and criminal law. It draws on traditional legal sources and modern addiction-specific sources little-known to the legal community (including twelve-step meetings, intensive drug treatment programs, and experimental drug courts) to make two arguments: first, that an individual with an alcohol or drug disease retains choice and the culpability required for legal responsibility, and as such the en banc Fourth Circuit was wrong to categorically immunize the individual with an addiction from criminal punishment for conduct that is symptomatic of the disease; and second, that an individual with alcohol or drug disease must be permitted to show that specific circumstances render criminal punishment inappropriate, and as such the prevailing majority approach is wrong for asking only whether the individual has committed an act and not exploring the nature of the offense conduct.

Keywords: addiction, substance abuse, disorder, disease, criminal law, responsibility, liability

Suggested Citation

Sidhu, Dawinder S., Addiction x Criminal Law (March 7, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Dawinder S. Sidhu (Contact Author)

University of Maryland at Shady Grove ( email )

9636 Gudelsky Drive
Rockville, MD 20850
United States

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