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Dram Shop and Social Host Liability Laws as a DUI Defense: Here’s What You Need to Know

Bartender serving shotsIf you've recently been charged with a DUI, you might find yourself wondering if it's possible to hold the establishment or individual who served you responsible for failing to recognize the signs of intoxication. Unfortunately, even though some states do allow this type of defense, it's not considered acceptable under Virginia law.

What Are Dram Shop Laws?

Dram shop laws, also referred to as social host liability, allow bars, restaurants, and other establishments to be held legally liable for injuries that result if they continue to serve an obviously intoxicated patron who later causes a drunk driving accident. The intoxicated driver is still penalized, but the person or persons injured by his actions have another option for seeking compensation for their injuries.

There is some evidence to suggest that dram shop laws reduce the number of alcohol-related traffic accidents, but they've been widely criticized for failing to promote personal responsibility. Because of this, Virginia does not recognize social host liability as a defense in a DUI case.  If you were drinking to excess and caused a traffic accident, the establishment that served you alcohol is not liable for your conduct.

Are Hosts Liable for Serving Alcohol to Minors?

Social host liability does not apply to persons over the legal drinking age, but an establishment or private individual can be held liable for serving alcohol to someone under age 21. However, the host is still not responsible for any crash-related injuries under Virginia law. Their liability is limited to the failure to verify the age of the person they served alcohol to.

What Other Defenses Are Available?

A DUI is a serious offense, but having a skilled attorney to represent your interests can help you minimize the impact of one poor decision on your future. T. Kevin Wilson is well-versed in Virginia's DUI / DWI statutes and is a former Police Academy Legal Instructor with a unique understanding of how cases are prosecuted. To learn more about how Mr. Wilson can handle your defense, please call 703-361-6100 or 540-347-4944.

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