Court tosses Legal Aid challenge to Virginia’s ‘habitual drunkard’ law

The court found that the state has a “legitimate interest” in discouraging alcohol abuse when declaring a person a habitual drinker.

News Story (Virginia)

Associated Press (AP)
August 9, 2018

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


The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a lower court ruling dismissing the lawsuit. But one appeals judge criticized the law, saying it “criminalizes the otherwise legal behavior of individuals suffering from a serious illness.”

Elaine Poon, a managing attorney at the Legal Aid Justice Center, said the group is considering asking the Fourth Circuit to hold a hearing before the full court to reconsider the panel’s ruling.

“The Fourth Circuit’s decision today perpetuates an antiquated law that brands people and singles them out for punishment based on a disease,” she said. “We will keep fighting to win relief for the thousands of people who are guilty of nothing more than being homeless and addicted to alcohol.”