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Can Dram Shop Laws help a DUI defense?

A ‘Dram Shop’ law is one of those laws that few people realize exists but most people agree it should. Named after the 18th-century English tavern practice of selling gin, a teaspoon, or dram, at a time.  Dram shop laws give those impacted by a DUI charge, the ability to hold an establishment owner partially responsible for the intoxication that led to the charge.

Typically, dram shop cases are brought on by the plaintiff in a DUI case: either a person that was hit by a car driven by an intoxicated driver or someone whose property was damaged as a result. In a case where a plaintiff wishes to hold the establishment partially responsible for their injury or loss, they can invoke the dram shop law.

Not every state has a dram shop law, but a majority of states do offer some variation of it. The law itself is designed to discourage bartenders from serving a person who is obviously intoxicated. While the law mainly benefits the plaintiff, it may also help the individual charged with DUI. In dram shop cases, the plaintiff is usually seeking compensation from both the intoxicated driver and the establishment owner responsible for serving them. When monetary damages are awarded to the plaintiff, they are typically split between the two defendants. While it may not seem like a win for the individual charged with the DUI, only being on the hook for half the amount awarded, may make it easier to handle.

When we enter an establishment and enjoy a cocktail, we have a duty to drink responsibly. However, since biology, medications, health and even stomach contents can impact how alcohol affects us, the bartender serving us also has a duty. It is their responsibility to cut someone off if they suspect they are intoxicated. When a bartender serves a patron to the point of obvious intoxication, they are partially responsible for the outcome.



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