Manning v. Caldwell, No. 17-1320 (4th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs, homeless alcoholics, filed suit challenging a Virginia statutory scheme that makes it a criminal offense for those whom the Commonwealth has labelled "habitual drunkards" to possess, consume, or purchase alcohol. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim and the Fourth Circuit affirmed.
On rehearing, the en banc court reversed. The en banc court held that the challenged scheme is unconstitutionally vague, because the term "habitual drunkard" specifies no standard of conduct. The en banc court also held that, even if it could be narrowed to apply only to similarly situated alcoholics, plaintiffs have stated a claim that it violates the Eighth Amendment as applied to them. In this case, plaintiffs have alleged that they are addicted to alcohol and that this addiction, like narcotics addiction, is an illness. Plaintiffs therefore alleged that the Virginia scheme targets them for special punishment for conduct that is both compelled by their illness and is otherwise lawful for all those of legal drinking age
This opinion or order relates to an opinion or order originally issued on August 9, 2018.