Court to Rehear "Habitual Drunkard" Case

Legal Aid argues law punishes homeless alcoholics

November 09, 2018 - 11:50 am

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A federal appeals court has agreed to hold a hearing to reconsider a three-judge panel's ruling rejecting a challenge to a Virginia law that allows police to arrest people designated as "habitual drunkards" if they are caught with alcohol.

In August, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling dismissing the lawsuit. On Thursday, the full court agreed to hear the case in January.

The law dates back to the 1930s and makes it a crime for habitual drunkards to possess, consume or purchase alcohol. The Legal Aid Justice Center argued that the law punishes homeless alcoholics who have nowhere else to drink but in public.

The three-judge panel found that the state has a "legitimate interest" in discouraging alcohol abuse.