The Los Angeles DUI Law Blog

Dram Shop Laws: Determining DUI Liability

When it comes to DUI cases, criminal charges aren’t only concern. Liability is also a serious issue and dram shop laws let victims spread the responsibility around.

That doesn’t mean other people could be charged with a DUI. A DUI offense requires that the person was driving under the influence so by definition, people who weren’t driving can’t be guilty of it.

But there are other ways that a store selling alcohol can get in legal trouble, especially in California.

Part of having a liquor license requires selling alcohol in a safe way. That means not selling to people who are visibly intoxicated.

If the bar or store fails in that duty, it could lose its liquor license in California. But the store’s owner and the person who sold the alcohol could also be charged with a crime.

Some states have dram shop laws that impose civil liability. In that case, the bar or liquor store could be liable in a civil lawsuit for the damages caused by a DUI.

Those laws apply if the establishment sold alcohol to someone visibly intoxicated who then gets into a DUI.

California has a very limited dram shop law for civil liability. It only applies if the establishment sells to minors who are visibly intoxicated. If that happens, the store can be liable for any damage the minor causes.

It’s also a crime to sell alcohol to someone who is underage.

But the Golden State takes criminal liability a step further. It’s a misdemeanor to sell alcohol to anyone who is visibly intoxicated.

The financial seriousness of civil dram shop laws can cost a bar or store but a criminal conviction? That can lead to revoked business licenses which would effectively close the shop.

The next time a bartender cuts someone off, appreciate the fact that it’s not just because he thinks that guy is being obnoxious. Legally, he has to do it.

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