Constitutional Law

Suit Challenges Public Intoxication Statutes in N.J.

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A federal lawsuit contends at least 74 towns in New Jersey are enforcing statutes against public intoxication even though they were repealed by a state law adopted in 1975.

The suit filed in federal court in Camden is seeking class action status, an order banning prosecutions and the return of fines paid by those who were convicted, the Associated Press reports. The lead plaintiff is Joseph W. McMullen, arrested in the town of Maple Shade as he was walking home from a bar. A judge later dismissed the charge.

Lawyer Steven Angstreich contends the state’s Alcoholism Treatment and Rehabilitation Act makes clear that the state seeks to deal with alcoholism as a disease rather than a crime. The suit (PDF) claims enforcement of the statutes violates defendants’ rights to due process and to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

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