Dram Shop Liability Won’t Likely Decrease Your Own DUI Liability

Tags: DUI

Last December, two Dallas Cowboys players were partying at a Texas nightclub before one of them got behind the wheel, ultimately crashing and killing his teammate, according to authorities.

Our Birmingham drunk driving defense lawyers understand that while the driver was immediately arrested on a charge of intoxication manslaughter, with a blood-alcohol content registering at more than double the legal limit, it seems the nightclub is also facing some legal challenges.

The nightclub’s practices came under scrutiny following the fatal crash that claimed the life of player Jerry Brown. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has now released a report indicating that the club engaged in business practices that allegedly served to promote excessive consumption by patrons. Additionally, according to media reports, the club violated Texas law by selling alcohol to a person who was intoxicated.

The latter finding can result in the business’s alcohol permit being suspended or canceled or the club could face a fine. The commission has said it is withholding a final judgment until the criminal case against player Josh Brent has concluded.

Previous reports revealed that one of the club’s promoters had boasted on social media platforms about how much alcohol was being consumed that night, and also the fact that a dozen professional football players were there. Specifically, she referred to the players as “these fools” and noted their rapid consumption of expensive champagne.

Despite the finding, it’s unlikely that the defendant will face reduced charges as a result of the nightclub’s misdeeds. Primarily, any wrongdoing by the nightclub – which would violate what are known as “dram shop laws,” would be a civil matter, not a criminal one.

However, it is possible in this case that his defense attorney might be able to argue that the defendant was taken advantage of by the club or its promoters, who apparently cared more about having him stay longer and increase their profile, as opposed to his or his teammates’ safety. However, that doesn’t mean the defendant will be entirely absolved in the criminal case.

The point of dram shop laws is not to decrease liability for anyone, but rather to hold as many people/entities accountable as possible.

Alabama Code 6-5-71 and 6-6-72 holds vendors financially liable for sale of alcohol to both intoxicated adults and minors.

According to news reports regarding this case, the defendant had previously served a month in jail back in 2009 for a drunk driving incident in Illinois. His driver’s license had been suspended and expired at the time of the wreck as a result of that earlier incident.

The driver reportedly flipped his Mercedes while on the highway. The vehicle then caught fire. His teammate – also reportedly his best friend – was pronounced dead at the scene.

An unopened bottle of alcohol was found near the driver’s side door.

Investigators have listed alcohol, speed and failure to maintain a single lane as contributing factors in the wreck. Neither vehicle occupant was wearing a seat belt.

While the driver refused to submit to a blood-alcohol test, the fact that someone was killed (or seriously hurt) gave authorities the ability to draw a blood sample from him against his will. (It’s worth noting that this can no longer be done without a warrant, per a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year).

While his blood-alcohol level was reportedly over the limit, his passenger’s registered only at 0.056 percent. In Texas, an intoxication manslaughter charge is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

In Alabama, a charge of criminally negligent homicide while driving under the influence will result in between 1 and 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

If you are facing criminal charges in Alabama, contact Alabama Criminal Lawyers at (205) 994-0616 or use our online contact form.

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