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Loudoun County Attorneys > Blog > Criminal Defense > Federal Court Reviews Interdiction of Habitual Drunkards in Virginia

Federal Court Reviews Interdiction of Habitual Drunkards in Virginia


The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is reviewing a challenge to a criminal law in Virginia that targets habitual drunkards, reported the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

On a larger level, this law allows the Virginia courts to label a person as a habitual drunkard. Then the court can issue a ruling — referred to legally as an order of interdiction — that prohibits the habitual drunkard from buying, possessing, or consuming alcohol.

Once the courts label a person as a habitual drunkard, law enforcement can arrest that person for the purchase, possession, or consumption of alcohol. The penalties for this offense include jail and fines, which creates a slippery slope for low-income offenders.

The Legal Aid Justice Center challenged this interdiction law, claiming that there was a disparate impact on low-income and homeless people. After an initial defeat in court last year, the center appealed to the Fourth Circuit.

For an example of this law’s impact, consider the case of a 48-year-old Virginia man. Since his designation as a habitual drunkard in 2012, this man has been jailed at least 30 times for alcohol reasons. He has not committed a felony or violent crime. Yet for the past six years, this man has rarely spent 30 consecutive days outside of jail.

In light of this news development, it seems like an ideal time to review Virginia laws and penalties concerning the interdiction of habitual drunkards.

How Does Virginia Address the Interdiction of Habitual Drunkards?

As detailed in Code of Virginia § 4.1-333, the state courts have the power to prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages to habitual drunkards. Virginia law does not define who qualifies as a habitual drunkard. But the courts must conduct a hearing with proper notice before declaring anyone a habitual drunkard.

After entering an order of interdiction, the court must file the order with the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. And if the court amends, alters, or cancels the order, then a duplicate copy must be filed with the Board.

Are Orders of Interdiction Limited to Habitual Drunkards in Virginia?

In short, no, orders of interdiction are not limited to habitual drunkards in Virginia. Section 4.1-333 allows the courts to enter an order of interdiction against drunk drivers. As with habitual drunkards, the order prohibits the sale of alcohol to the drunk driver in question.

What are the Penalties for Violating an Order of Interdiction in Virginia?

As established in Code of Virginia § 4.1-349, any person who violates an interdiction order is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. The maximum penalties for a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia are 12 months in county jail and $2,500 in fines.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you are dealing with an order of interdiction or other criminal offense in Virginia, it is extremely advantageous to speak with a skilled criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at Simms Showers LLP, servicing Leesburg, Winchester, Fairfax, and Manassas, have skill and experience in the field of criminal law, including orders of interdiction. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.



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