Appellate Attorneys Argue Over Legality of Habitual Drunkard Law

Posted on 30 January, 2019 at 17:35

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear en banc arguments over the legality of Virginia's "habitual drunkard" law. According to The Daily Progress, the law "allows a circuit court to civilly find someone to be a 'habitual drunkard' and thereafter be prosecuted for possessing or consuming alcohol, or attempting to do so." Four homeless alcoholics challenged the law arguing that it criminalizes a person's status (being a homeless alcoholic) rather than a crime. The four individuals have been prosecuted between 11 to more than 30 times. Their attorneys argue that the law unconstitutionally targets the homeless population because non-homeless alcoholics can often avoid being prosecuted because they can simply get drunk and remain drunk in their home. A lower court and a three judge appellate panel have already found the law valid, but the entire appellate bench will convene to decide the issue once again. 

The appellate attorneys for the state have argued previously that the law is designed to protect the both the alcoholic and the public. They argued that alcoholics present a public safety issue because they pass out on the streets, create disturbances while drunk which put them at risk for being harmed, and that they can present a dangerous situation for people coming into contact with them when they are acting irrationally while drunk. The attorneys further argued that the state provides numerous other means of dealing with alcoholism including treatment and rehabilitation, but incarceration is also a legitimate means to address the public safety concern that alcoholics create. 

Written by:   Alexandra Siskopoulos, Esq.

Telephone:   (646) 942-1798

Email:          [email protected]

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Categories: Appellate Attorney News