Consider the following scenario: A group of friends go to the bar to celebrate a birthday. They’re all having a good time, enjoying each other’s’ company, and end up drinking a little too much. They leave the bar, get into a car, and head home for the night. On the drive home, they get into an accident and injure the other driver.
Obviously, the drunk driver can be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and legally punished. But what about the bartenders who served the group? What responsibility, if any, do they have? If a bartender over serves a patron who later harms himself or another person, should the bartender be held accountable for not cutting them off or giving them a breathalyzer?
In the past few years, there have been more bartenders charged with over serving. In Oklahoma, two bartenders were charged with serving alcohol to an intoxicated person. The patron visited their bar, had nine drinks, and left to walk home. One the way, he stumbled into the road, fell down, was hit by two cars, and died. Medical tests showed that his blood alcohol level was 0.3, which is almost four times the legal limit.
Another bartender in Montana was sentenced for serving one individual more than ten drinks in three hours. Soon after leaving the bar, the patron lost control of his vehicle and ran head first into a police car. The driver died instantly. The officer was rushed to the hospital and given immediate care, but he passed away a few days later. The bartender was sentenced with four months in jail, community service, and fines.
In Texas, undercover cops arrested a bartender who served several drinks to an intoxicated customer. The undercover cops were part of a new task force that hopes to crack down on drunk driving, after alcohol related driving deaths increased by over 70% the prior year. The local authorities are also investing in educational programs for bar owners and their staff. By teaching them about their legal responsibility to not serve a patron excessive amounts of alcohol, they hope to minimize the number of incidents and related crimes.
Alcohol Related Crime
When people think about alcohol related crimes, the first thing that usually comes to mind is drunk driving. But alcohol plays a role in many other crimes, including theft, assault, abuse, and domestic violence. It’s estimated that over one-third of inmates were under the influence of alcohol when they committed their offense. Being under the influence of alcohol also increases a person’s risk of being a victim of crime.
For these reasons, many legislators have said that alcohol related crimes have far reaching effects. In some cases, this has even lead to bartenders being charged for over serving and public negligence. If bartenders are being sentenced for over serving patrons, then what specifically should the law require? Should bartenders be required to give breathalyzers to customers before serving them? Or should they only be held accountable if over serving leads to an incident?
by Elijah Litscher
Quest Products Inc