After a night out, you are on your way home when you see the flashing lights behind you. The next thing you know, your wrists are in cuffs, and you are being read your Miranda rights. Later, you start to wonder if you’re the only party at fault. I mean, surely the bartender who kept doling out the drinks to you must hold some legal responsibility for your DUI, right?
As a 30-year veteran DUI lawyer in Florida, Criminal Defense Attorney Brian Gabriel has seen his fair share of drunk driving cases. One question that frequently arises in these cases is whether over-serving alcohol could be a viable defense to a criminal charge for driving under the influence (DUI). Here’s what you need to know.
Florida Laws Regarding the Over-Serving of Alcohol
Over-serving refers to the act of serving alcohol to someone who is already intoxicated or serving more alcohol to someone who has clearly had too much to drink. While over-serving is a serious issue that can lead to DUI charges, it is not a defense to those charges in most cases.
Florida Dram Shop Laws
Florida is one of 42 states that have adopted what is known as a “dram shop law.” These types of state statutes impose liability on alcohol sellers for damages produced by their intoxicated customers.
However, unlike many states with dram shop laws, Florida’s dram shop regulations—Florida Statute 768.125—do not impose liability on establishments, vendors, or social hosts for serving alcohol to individuals who are visibly intoxicated. Liability only arises if the alcohol is provided to a minor or a known “habitually addicted” individual.
Florida DUI Laws
Florida Statute 316.193 holds drivers responsible for their own decisions when they choose to get behind the wheel while they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Even if a driver was over-served at a bar or restaurant, they are still responsible for any DUI charges that may result from their decision to drive.
It is important for drivers to understand the consequences of driving under the influence and to make responsible choices when it comes to drinking and driving. This means having a designated driver, using ride-sharing services, or staying at a nearby hotel if they plan to drink.
Could a Florida Bartender Be Held Responsible for Drunk Driving?
While many states impose liability on establishments for serving alcohol to visibly intoxicated individuals, Florida does not recognize this rule. With that being said, there are, however, a few limited situations where an alcohol seller could be held responsible for over-serving a customer. They include:
- If they served alcohol to an underage child: An establishment that knowingly serves alcohol to minors can be held accountable if the minor causes a drunk driving accident.
- If they served alcohol to a known alcoholic: Should a server or bartender provide alcohol to an individual who has a known history of alcohol abuse, the establishment may face liability if the patron causes an accident.
- If the patron did not consent to the amount of alcohol they were given: If a driver was unknowingly given a spiked drink or coerced into drinking excessively, they might be able to argue they did not willingly consume enough alcohol to become intoxicated. In these cases, it may be possible to argue that the driver’s intoxication was not voluntary and, therefore, should not be held against them in court.
It is important to note that these defenses are rarely successful in DUI cases because the law places the responsibility for DUI squarely on the driver’s shoulders.
Contest a Florida DUI Charge with a Knowledgeable Criminal Defense Attorney
Although over-serving may not be a feasible defense to your DUI charge, there are still many ways to challenge a prosecution’s case. In some cases, it may be possible to challenge the results of a blood or breathalyzer test. These tests can be inaccurate or flawed for a variety of reasons, including improper calibration, faulty equipment, or operator error. In other cases, Criminal Defense Attorney Brian Gabriel may be able to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecution that reduces the charges or penalties associated with a DUI charge.
Mr. Gabriel will handle your case using all the knowledge and skill developed over the span of his 30-plus year career. Start with a free consultation today by calling Criminal Defense Attorney Brian Gabriel of The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel at (561) 622-5575. You can also complete an online contact form to learn more.