Manning v. Caldwell

Four homeless alcoholics challenge a law making it a crime for a “habitual drunkard” to possess an alcoholic beverage. Fourth Circuit: Although the government cannot punish people for what they are, as opposed to what they do, this is not such a case. The state labels people “habitual drunkards” in civil proceedings, not criminal ones, and the criminal prohibition focuses on the conduct of possessing a beverage. It is irrelevant that the prohibited conduct is compelled by addiction, as otherwise much of our criminal law would be called into question. Concurrence: The majority’s conclusion is compelled by circuit precedent, but in my view this statute impermissibly criminalizes otherwise legal conduct by persons suffering from a disease.

Tags: 2018, Due Process, Eighth Amendment, Equal Protection, Fourth Circuit

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