Can a server be arrested for serving alcohol to a drunk customer?

A recent story out of Texas has many of my friends in the service industry asking, “Could this happen in Indiana?” The answer is YES.

A local Houston station reports that a bartender was observed to have served a patron at least 11 beers over the course of two-and-a-half hours. The bartender allegedly continued serving the man when he was visibly intoxicated. The drunken patron subsequently got behind the wheel and killed a teenage girl on prom night. He’s been convicted and sentenced to 32 years, and now the bartender who served him has been arrested. The crazy part? Prom night was two years ago.

I’m a criminal defense attorney who focuses on alcohol-related crimes, and in my experience, this is a novel approach to law enforcement. Indiana has made it a Class B misdemeanor for you to provide alcohol to a person that you know to be intoxicated. If you’re convicted, you can get up to 180 days in jail and a year of probation. Indiana also has a two-year statute of limitations for the prosecution of misdemeanors, which means this scenario could have played the same way in the Hoosier State.

The alcohol commission treats a conviction for sale to an intoxicated person the same as it treats a DUI / OVWI: the server’s alcohol permit is revoked. This penalty is even more harmful than the B misdemeanor conviction, as it impairs the server’s ability to make a living.

My advice to friends in the service industry: It’s not an easy thing to help a stranger forget their troubles, and you’re better safe than sorry. That is, if you play it safe now, hopefully you won’t need to be sorry two years down the road. It’s best to proceed with caution, especially in pursuit of oblivion.

If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges you owe it to yourself or them to talk with Attorney Marc Lopez. You can reach him at (317) 632-3642. Or you can e-mail Attorney Marc Lopez by clicking this link.