Virginia Jails People for Even Smelling Like Alcohol

A class-action lawsuit accuses cops and prosecutors of locking up people as “habitual drunkards” after placing them on a secret blacklist that bans them from booze.

News Story (Virginia)

M.L. Nestel
Daily Beast
March 16, 2016

Tags: Criminal Justice, Due Process, Poverty

Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Aid Justice Center (Virginia)


A new class-action lawsuit brought by the Charlottesville, Virginia-based Legal Aid Justice Center accuses Roanoke and four other cities of using the “habitual drunkard” law to sweep of the poor and indigent like Starnes off the streets.

“This is unconstitutional,” attorney Mary Frances Charlton of the Legal Aid Justice Center said. “It’s a civil court and yet a prosecutor can ask the local trial court to slap this label on an individual in the community.They don’t get a lawyer, they aren’t given the right to confront witnesses like they would in criminal court, and often they’re not even present.

“Once this label is slapped on them through civil proceedings any possession of alcohol is punished by up to a year in jail.”