Over the last several decades, both the government and private sector advocacy groups have worked tirelessly on a campaign to change the way we perceive, and punish, drunk drivers. Those efforts have paid off in a big way. Public perception has definitely changed, as have most state drinking and driving laws. In fact, the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction that even people who serve alcohol are now worried about liability. Whether you serve alcohol as part of your job, or simply entertain at your home on a regular basis, you may be wondering if you can be held liable for serving someone who was caught driving under the influence. The Omaha DUI lawyers at Petersen Law Office shed some light on this complicated area of the law.
That Was Then, This Is Now
You may be old enough to remember when driving under the influence was not considered a particularly heinous crime, as long as no one was injured. Although the nation’s first driving under the influence laws went into effect in the early part of the 20th century, they were vague and largely ignored unless a motorist caused an accident or did something particularly egregious. That was then, and this is now though. By the end of the 20th century most states across the country had strengthened their drunk driving laws by including a “per se” provision that creates a presumption of intoxication if a motorist’s chemical test results showed a BAC level of 0.08 percent or greater. Penalties for violating state driving under the influence (DUI) laws were also increased throughout the nation and law enforcement agencies began to proactively enforce DUI laws. The shift in attitudes, and laws, regarding drunk drivers has caused a ripple effect, causing anyone involved in serving alcohol to be concerned about liability as well.
What Are “Dram Shop” Laws?
A Dram Shop law is a law which makes a business which sells alcoholic drinks or a host who serves liquor to a drinker who is obviously intoxicated or close to it, strictly liable to anyone injured by the drunken patron or guest. These laws are named for the old “dram shops” which were taverns or bars that sold alcohol by the “dram.” At last count, 38 states had some version of a Dram Shop law in place; although, most modern day Dram Shop laws do not impose blanket, strict liability, on servers. Instead, most laws have some limitations on liability or exceptions that prevent strict liability. Also, keep in mind that Dram Shop laws are civil in nature, meaning a server who violated the statute would not face criminal penalties, such as a term of imprisonment. Instead, you could be ordered to pay monetary damages to a victim for violating the Dram Shop statute.
Nebraska’s Dram Shop Law
The State of Nebraska does have a Dram Shop law; however, it only imposes civil liability if the individual who was driving under the influence is a minor. Governed by Nebraska Revised Code Section 53-404 and referred to as the “Minor Alcoholic Liquor Liability Act,” Nebraska’s law reads as follows:
Any person who sustains injury or property damage, or the estate of any person killed, as a proximate result of the negligence of an intoxicated minor shall have, in addition to any other cause of action available in tort, a cause of action against:
(1) A social host who allowed the minor to consume alcoholic liquor in the social host’s home or on property under his or her control;
(2) Any person who procured alcoholic liquor for the minor, other than with the permission and in the company of the minor’s parent or guardian, when such person knew or should have known that the minor was a minor; or
(3) Any retailer who sold alcoholic liquor to the minor. The absolute defenses found in section 53-180.07 shall be available to a retailer in any cause of action brought under this section.
For Nebraska’s Dram Shop law to apply, the motorist must have been a minor and caused, or contributed to, injuries sustained by the alleged victim.
Contact Omaha DUI Lawyers at Petersen Law Office
If you have been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in the State of Nebraska, it is always in your best interest to consult directly with a DUI defense attorney about the specific facts and circumstances of your case. Contact the Nebraska DUI lawyers at Petersen Law Office 24 hours a day at 402-513-2180 to discuss your case with an experienced DUI defense lawyer.