Lawsuit: Officials use statute to punish homeless alcoholics

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ROANOKE, Va. (AP) – A legal team is challenging a Virginia statute they say criminalizes homeless alcoholics.

The Legal Aid Justice Center announced Thursday that it has filed a lawsuit in Roanoke, claiming commonwealth’s attorneys’ offices have used the state’s interdiction statute to repeatedly incarcerate homeless individuals and violate their constitutional rights.

The complaint says the statute has punished homeless alcoholics for having “the disease of alcoholism.” It also says the statute has criminalized the possession or consumption of alcohol without constitutional protections.

The statutes say a person who has been interdicted – or prohibited from selling alcoholic beverages – shall not possess alcoholic beverages nor be drunk in public – with some exceptions.

Roanoke’s commonwealth’s attorney Donald Caldwell told the Roanoke Times he hadn’t seen the lawsuit yet.

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