ABC Arrest of Student Sparks Concern, Talk of Potential Suit

Posted: Updated: July 2, 2013 07:52 PM

The arrest of a University of Virginia student after a chaotic run-in with Alcohol Beverage Control agents has sparked concern from the community.

Elizabeth Daly's story has been in the spotlight since her charges were dropped last Thursday. A crate of sparkling water mistaken as beer caused the incident that landed Daly a night in jail in April.  News of the case is now raising questions of ABC's policies and a potential lawsuit.

The story of Daly's night in jail - that started after ABC agents mistook a case of sparkling water for a 12-pack of beer - has stirred quite the conversation.  The ABC agents were conducting an underage possession enforcement activity in the Harris Teeter parking lot at the Barracks Road Shopping Center in Charlottesville.         

Now that the three felony charges she was facing have been dropped, people speaking out in support of Daly are suggesting she sue.

"Well it's hard to sue the state or to sue representatives of the state because the doctrine called sovereign immunity," said NBC29's legal analyst Lloyd Snook. "But sovereign immunity basically means in this case is that if police behavior is really egregious, you can get past the defensive."

Snook says he believes that, based on the information released, there may be grounds for legal action.

"I think in this case from the way the initial reports can come across, it sounds like there may be enough to talk about it. You can't sue successfully just because a police officer made a mistake but if they do something really egregious, then you can sue," Snook said. 

The ABC agents' actions are being heavily questioned and criticized by the community. More than 500 people have commented on the Virginia Department of ABC's Facebook page since Friday when it posted a clarification of its involvement in the Charlottesville incident. 

But Snook says if ABC is smart about its next step, it may avoid a lawsuit altogether. 

"If ABC responds quickly and decisively to say, ‘this is not the way we do things and we're going to make darn sure it's not going to happen again,' then for some people it would take the point out. You'd say, why bother to sue at that point? They've already changed their behavior, so it might make a difference in that sense," Snook said. 

Jeff Daly, Elizabeth's father, said via email Tuesday that his daughter is "working very hard to put this extremely disturbing and stressful occurrence of events behind her."

When asked about a pending lawsuit, Daly's attorney Fran Lawrence stated there was "nothing further at this time."

The ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement is currently reviewing the incident. An ABC spokesperson says they don't have any more details to release about the review at this time.

A manager of the Harris Teeter store in the Barracks Road Shopping Center says there are no surveillance cameras in the parking lot.  There are only cameras inside the store.

NBC29 has requested a tape of the 911 call from that night, but have not yet received a response.

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