More than one million drivers are charged with drunk driving every year according to the U.S. Department of transportation. It is likely that offenses result from drinking at an establishment such as a bar or restaurant. So can a restaurant or bar be held criminally or civilly liable for a drunk driving offense?
An establishment like a bar or restaurant will more likely face civil charges than criminal ones if they serve a clearly intoxicated person. Civil laws regarding these situations are called dram shop laws. A person who has been hurt by a drunk driver can sue the driver and the establishment that served them can be held liable as well.
Civil liability cases have a lower standard as well. A victim typically has to prove that the establishment was negligent and that is it. In a criminal case, the standard for conviction is beyond a reasonable doubt.
Laws surrounding criminal liability vary by state. Most states have laws against serving a clearly intoxicated individual which means a server can be held criminally liable if police can prove that they served someone that they should not have. A patron does not have to drive drunk for these laws to affect a restaurant or bar owner, but it is much more likely that it will come to the attention of police if the patron is caught driving intoxicated. It is unlikely that a bar owner will be held liable for a drunk driver. Proving that a server willingly provided alcohol to someone who was visibly intoxicated is difficult, but if they are charged, they could face large fines and even jail time.
A Drunk Driver is Still Responsible
A drunk driver is not excused from their charges even if a bar or restaurant are held partially liable. Anyone facing a DUI charge should hire a lawyer, like a DUI lawyer Salt Lake City UT trusts, for their defense. All possible consequences for a DUI are serious: probation, suspension of a driver’s license, fines and jail time are all likely results of a charge.
Any witnesses available at the bar should be contacted to gather any overlooked evidence. Your attorney can help contact these witnesses and talk with the restaurant or bar to discover any helpful information, especially if anyone saw what the driver drank and over what period of time.
An Attorney Will Benefit You
Contact a DUI attorney to help you prepare a strong defense. During a consultation, the attorney can evaluate the many factors of your case to ensure that no errors made by law enforcement are overlooked. Further, they can demand presentation of evidence that may serve to help your case.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Rasmussen & Miner for their added insight.