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Habitual Drunkards Challenge Proceeds

Divided federal appeals court revives challenge to Virginia law

July 16, 2019 - 2:26 pm
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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit challenging a Virginia law that allows police to arrest and jail people designated as "habitual drunkards" if they are caught with alcohol.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the challenge to Virginia's so-called interdiction law can move forward.

A divided appeals court voted 8-7 to allow the lawsuit to proceed, finding that the law is unconstitutionally vague. The ruling from the full court reverses earlier rulings from a judge and a three-judge panel dismissing the lawsuit.

The Legal Aid Justice Center argues that the law targets homeless alcoholics and violates the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

The Virginia attorney general's office argues that the state has a legitimate interest in discouraging alcohol and drug abuse.