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Can a Bartender or Server Face Criminal Charges for a Customer’s DUI?

Glass of half full of liquor, a folded newspaper, and car keys on a bar top.

According to CBS 13 in Sacramento, new certification requirements for bartenders and servers in California go into effect on July 1. Reportedly, the new certifications are designed to help bartenders and servers do a better job of safely serving alcohol to patrons. Servers and bartenders have 60 days from July 1 to complete the training and meet the new requirements.

They can complete the training online. The training covers alcohol-related laws and regulations, good management practices, intervention methods, and information about alcohol’s impact on the body. The training takes 3 to 4 hours. After completing the training, servers and bartenders must take an exam (also online).

The exam is open-book and takes 2 hours. One of the issues that lawmakers hope the new training requirements will address is customers being served too much alcohol, which can result in several problems, most notably DUI accidents.

Could I Go to Jail for Over-Serving Alcohol?

Many people don’t realize that a bartender or server can face serious consequences if they serve a person too much alcohol. Bartenders and servers can be held responsible for the actions of a person they served too much alcohol.

For example, if the server or bartender continues to serve alcohol to someone who is clearly intoxicated and allows that person to leave their establishment and drive, and the person causes a DUI accident, the bartender or server could face penalties because of the incident. Many of the laws that cover issues involving over-serving alcohol are known as dram shop laws. Under these laws, as well as others, a bartender or server could face civil and/or criminal charges for over-serving a patron alcohol. Depending on the circumstances of the case, a server or bartender could:

  • Lose their job
  • Pay thousands of dollars in fines
  • Face civil lawsuits from the patron they served or anyone that the patron injured while they were drunk
  • Face criminal charges for offenses such as reckless endangerment or manslaughter
  • Serve time in prison

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