Law against Internet alcohol sales overturned

Judge rules Indiana statute interferes with interstate commerce

Dec 13, 1999 - A federal judge has ruled unconstitutional an Indiana law prohibiting residents from buying alcoholic beverages from out-of-state sellers and having them shipped to their homes.


The law also applies to ordering and selling alcohol via the Internet.

The ruling Friday by U.S. District Judge Allen Sharp in South Bend, Ind., declared that the 1998 law interferes with interstate commerce.

"This court now, and has always been, greatly reluctant to wield the federal Constitution against state legislation," Sharp said. "But here, the result is inescapable because these statutes on their face discriminate against out-of-state commerce."

Similar laws are in place in 18 other states, but the Indiana law was the first to be challenged, said Robert Epstein, attorney for the plaintiffs.

The 1998 law prevents a seller in another state or country from shipping directly to an Indiana resident who does not hold a wholesaler permit. Most of those protesting the change were wine enthusiasts. They argued they could not buy wines while traveling and have them shipped home.

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