College Student Jailed Over Bottled Water Purchase

If you want to buy liquor in Virginia, you’ll have to go to an ABC store. While you can get beer or wine at places like grocery stores, liquor stores in the state are all run by the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). According to their website, here is their mission:

“To control the distribution of alcoholic beverages; operate efficient, conveniently located retail outlets; enforce the laws of the Commonwealth [of Virginia] pertaining to alcoholic beverages and youth access to tobacco products; and provide excellent customer service, a reliable source of revenue, and effective public safety.”

Besides having complete control over everything pertaining to alcohol in Virginia, “ABC special agents have full police powers with a diverse range of duties — from investigating license applicants and conducting underage sale compliance checks, to enforcing criminal and ABC laws in more than 17,000 licensed establishments.”

So, in one of their “investigations,” they caught 20-year-old Elizabeth Daly, a University of Virginia student, carrying what they thought was beer from a grocery store to her car. She and a couple of her roommates had also purchased cookie dough and ice cream (mmm). I guess these agents wanted to make sure they were all of age to purchase alcohol. But I don’t get why they had to gang up on the girls like this:

“A group of [seven] state Alcoholic Beverage Control agents clad in plainclothes approached her, suspecting the blue carton of LaCroix sparkling water to be a 12-pack of beer. Police say one of the agents jumped on the hood of her car. She says one drew a gun. Unsure of who they were, Daly tried to flee the darkened parking lot.”

Fresh in the girls’ minds were stories from sexual assault survivors that they had been listening to that evening at the annual “Take Back the Night” vigil held on University of Virginia grounds. It’s some rally aimed at ending sexual violence on college campuses, or…something.

So, what were they to think about these seven armed people, mostly men, coming at them in a dark parking lot late at night? It’s not like they were wearing some kind of uniform. ABC agents don’t wear uniforms. Daly recalled:

“They were showing unidentifiable badges after they approached us, but we became frightened, as they were not in anything close to a uniform. I couldn’t put my windows down unless I started my car, and when I started my car they began yelling to not move the car, not to start the car. They began trying to break the windows. My roommates and I were … terrified.”

Understandably, the girls panicked and Daly drove her SUV out of the parking lot away from the ABC agents. She dialed 911 to report what was happening. She was then stopped by an agent driving a vehicle with lights and a siren. When she found out who these people were who were after her, she apologized profusely. But it was too little, too late.

She was arrested and thrown in jail on three charges:  “[T]wo counts of assaulting a law enforcement officer and one count of eluding police, all Class 6 felonies carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison and $2,500 in fines per offense.” The agents said she “assaulted” them when her SUV grazed a couple of them as she fled the parking lot.

Thankfully, last week the prosecutor dropped the charges against her. Even if these girls had purchased beer illegally, was this ABC operation really worth it to “crack down” on them like this? Seven armed agents and one of them drawing his weapon? Over a 12-pack of beer? And it wasn’t even beer! And they still found a way to make it look like they were the poor, innocent victims, mistreated and assaulted by these three vicious college students.