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Fourth Circuit Rules State “Habitual Drunkard” Law Unconstitutional

The Fourth US Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down Virginia’s “habitual drunkard" law as unconstitutional, but not without a fight.

The plaintiffs, two from Richmond and two from Roanoke had been arrested and prosecuted 11 to 30 times. The suit alleged the law targets homeless alcoholics because of their status, rather than the crime and that was unconstitutional.

“By an incredibly close 8-7 vote, the court agreed,” said Carl Tobias, Law Professor at the University of Richmond.

But Judge Harvie Wilkinson, III joined by five others said the implications that we lack control over human behavior, are boundless.

"He claimed the same could be said about sex offenders or child abuse.”

The Virginia Attorney General’s Office defended the law and is now reviewing whether or not to appeal.


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