No Wine on Sunday- Legal Issues

My husband asked me to request some assistance from your collective minds on this subject. It is actually more a general question for our own information, but it also relates to a minor annoyance we face sometimes. I have to admit, he got my interest on this one.

Ok, on Sunday in Ohio, one can only buy wine from certain retailers who have a particular license- despite the fact the other retailers may be able to sell wine all week. A few stores must be given special waivers to sell on Sunday, but they are few and far between and sometimes non-existent in communities.

Our question is this, does a citizen have a legal standing to challenge the validity of that law in the court system? I realize we could lobby politically and have it lifted, but there is a sneaking suspicion that the law only exists because of religious pressure that still exists today. We understand that the state has a compelling interest to regulate the trade of alcohol (or so they claim), but since they are allowing some places to sell it and not others on a particular day, it seems as if the law is arbitrary. We also understand that they have to limit who can sell alcoholic beverages, but the stores restricted from selling are those that can normally sell the product except on Sunday. Henceforth, our preliminary conclusion that this is a remnant of the Temperance movement.

So, the question is, could this law be challenged legally by a customer. We already figured that an owner could get arrested for selling on Sunday and then challenge it in court, but I would never want to risk that as a business owner because both my hubby and I agree that the chances are pretty slim of getting a judge to side with you on this one.

Thus, to make a long story short, is there any legal standing a customer has to challenge the law in courts in this situation?

You have legal standing to challenge the law and you don’t have to be arrested first. The issue is not moot. That law prohibits your purchasing alcohol on Sunday, which certainly affects you personally and is not a moot question.

These types of laws arise from the so-called “blue laws,” which have slowly eroded from the American scene. http://www.fact-index.com/b/bl/blue_law.html

If you can show that the law allows such sales by certain stores without any rationale basis for the discrimination, you may be able to have it declared unconstitutional. More power to you.

Lissa, a business owner could have standing to challenge the law without being arrested for violating it.

IANA (US) L, but if he applied for a permit to sell booze on a Sunday and was knocked back, he could challenge that decision via administrative law. This might allow him to bring in the issue of whether the anti-booze-on-Sundays law is valid as a whole.

Hmm, I never knew this, thanks all.

I wonder if we should challenge it… How would we do it, just file suit?

Firstly, stupid question, but on what grounds would you challenge it? I agree it’s stupid, but why is it potentially illegal?

Secondly, why not consider pretending to a be a devout but disorganised dude, who celebrates communion on sunday, but can’t cache the wine? :cool:

Why does a law have to be illegal (hehheh, that sounds funny) to be challenged? I thought laws just get voted out by public opinion, albeit through elected representatives.

For example, was the 55mph speed limit illegal, or just out of favor with the populace?

In many cases, yes. Still, blue laws might not be so out of favor for there to be enough people caring one way or the other. If a law can be challenged in court, it can be overturned by a dedicated minority.

It could be vulnerable to challenge on First Amendment grounds, if the law was enacted because Sunday is observed as a “day of rest” by some Christian denominations. However, my IANAL opinion is that given how easy it would be for the state to offer a non-religious rational basis for the law such a challenge would likely fail.

In Kansas, it used to be illegal to sell liquor of any kind on Sunday. Not so in Missouri. Border stores on the KS side started selling liquor on Sundays, in violation of the law, because they were losing business to MO side stores.

This (and a lot of other bureaucratic and political nonsense) led to a revision of the law and a decision to let each county decide whether or not you could buy liquor on sundays.

However, you still can’t buy beer in grocery stores on sundays, and the beer you can buy there on other days is of lesser alcohol content than that at a liquor store.

Why are blue laws so damn complicated?

A non-religious rational basis for the law like… what? More alcohol-related deaths on Sundays? Possibly. Other than that, I can’t think of a single non-religious reason to prohibit alcohol sales on any individual day.

In Ohio v. Kidd, 167 Ohio St. 521(1958), several store operators were convicted of violating the Sunday closing law by the Ohio Supreme Court. The court basically said blue laws were a valid exercise of a legislature’s police power as long as they weren’t “arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable”. It also made the observation that “Wisdom requires that men should refrain from labor at least one day in seven, and the advantages of having the day of rest fixed, and so fixed as to happen at regularly recurring intervals, are too obvious to be overlooked.” It also goes on to suggest that while obviously the Christian Sabbath was selected as a day of rest to reflect to wishes of the majority, it is as legitimate an exercise if a day must be chosen as to choose it arbitrarily.

None of which, of course, really hits on the topic of alcohol trading, specifically.
In Ohio v. Sauceman, from 2000, deals with a woman charged with selling alcohol on a Sunday, but the case hinges on the procedural aspects of her case, not on the validity of the law.

And, as far as I can tell, those are the only relevant state cases involving Ohio’s blue laws.

However, I did find among the notes for a SCOTUS case, McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420 (1961), the following:
“A state Sunday closing law does not violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it excepts the retail sale of certain products, such as tobacco, food, and gasoline, or because other statutes provide for additional exceptions, for instance, by permitting various amusements, including games of chance, where the record is barren of any indication that the legislature could not reasonably find that the Sunday sale of the exempted commodities was necessary either for the health of the populace or for the enhancement of the recreational atmosphere of the day, that the statutory distinctions were invidious, or that local tradition and custom might not rationally call for this legislative treatment; the fact that the exemptions deny some vendors and operators the day of rest and recreation contemplated by the legislature does not render the statute violative of equal protection.”

All of which means… well, nothing. The above makes absolutely no sense- it basically exempts blue laws from even the rational basis test, the lowest level of scrutiny to which a court can subject a possibly unconstitutional piece of legislation. Plus, the ruling was issued in 1961, and although it appears to be good law, I would imagine today’s SCOTUS would overturn precedent here in a second.

Of course, IANAL, and I take no responsibility in the event you decide to make yourselves a test case :stuck_out_tongue:

I thought “challenging the law” was being used to mean asking the courts to decide that it conflicts with a previous or higher law, and thus nullify it; if it’s a matter of changing the law by getting whatever body is in charge of deciding laws to change their mind, then shoot.

But the answer seems to be it is likely to break the church-state separation thing… which I guess is actually a reasonable answer.

If this “particular license” can be bought by any retailer, it is not discriminatory. On what basis are “a few stores” given special waivers? Religious? You have to determine that to determine if that is a rational basis. As Otto pointed out, these “blue laws” appear on first blush to being subject to being declared unconstitutional. However, I did some research. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=search&court=US&case=/us/374/398.html

That case is not directly on point. Here’s a case more on point: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?navby=case&court=us&vol=366&invol=599#603

So, you really have to examine the precise language of the laws. Most likely, they were enacted with language to allow their enforcement.