Manning v. Caldwell, No. 17-1320 (4th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Virginia's regulation of the consumption, purchase, manufacture, and sale of alcohol through a series of interconnecting provisions found in Title 4.1 of the Virginia Code did not qualify as cruel and unusual punishment because it criminalizes plaintiffs' status as homeless alcoholics and did not violate Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660 (1962). Robinson held that, although states may not criminalize status, they may criminalize actual behavior even when the individual alleges that addiction created a strong urge to engage in a particular act. In this case, it is the act of possessing alcohol—not the status of being an alcoholic—that gave rise to criminal sanctions. The interdiction statute was a preventative tool and the state could use this sort of prophylactic device to identify those at the highest risk of alcohol problems and put them on notice that subsequent behavior could be subject to punishment.
The Fourth Circuit also held that the interdiction provision did not violate plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment right to due process where interdiction carried no threat of imprisonment and therefore did not result in a loss of liberty. Finally, the interdiction provision did not violate plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection. The court applied rational basis review and held that the law was rationally related to Virginia's legitimate interest in discouraging alcohol abuse and its attendant risks to public safety and wellbeing.