Most adult residents of Charlotte are aware of the criminal penalties that may attach to driving a vehicle while drunk. What is less well known are the penalties that can be enforced against someone who serves an alcoholic beverage to someone who is obviously intoxicated. The recent arrest of a Charlotte-area bartender and the criminal charges that have been made against her demonstrate the legal difficulties that may face a person who violates what is called the state’s “dram shop law.”
On February 22, 2021, a bartender in the Beantown Tavern in Charlotte served a drink to a woman who is alleged to have consumed almost three times the legal limit for alcohol in North Carolina. The intoxicated woman then left the bar and collided with another car, causing serious injuries to the driver of that vehicle. Seeing signs of obvious intoxication in the driver, police took a blood alcohol sample and found that her blood alcohol content was 0.2%, almost three times the legal limit. After charging the woman with a DWI, investigators traced the woman’s activities before the accident. The investigation led to the bartender at the Beantown Tavern.
The alleged crime
The bartender had violated both state law and tavern rules by serving the woman a drink when she was obviously intoxicated. She was arrested by agents of the state’s Alcohol Law Enforcement Division. Investigators also charged the bar with violating state rules, including allowing employees to serve alcohol after consuming alcohol themselves. Both the bartender who served the drink to the intoxicated driver and the bar are facing regulatory penalties, possible criminal charges, and potential claims of civil liability.
What can the accused do?
Any person or establishment facing similar charges May benefit from consulting a lawyer experienced in defending alcohol related crimes. A knowledgeable attorney can evaluate the evidence, provide an estimate of the likelihood of the imposition of criminal penalties, suggest available legal defenses, and, if appropriate, negotiate an acceptable plea agreement with the prosecutor.