Laws to Crack Down on Serving Intoxicated People in Bars Largely Ignored

Laws prohibiting bars and restaurants from serving intoxicated people can be an effective way to reduce alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes and violence, but the provisions in most states are poorly drafted and rarely enforced, according to two experts on alcohol policy.

James Mosher, JD, and Elizabeth Dahl, JD, of Alcohol Policy Consultations, say the enforcement of well-designed service of intoxicated persons (SIP) laws would provide significant public health and safety benefits. Mosher spoke at the recent American Public Health Association annual meeting.

Only Florida and Nevada do not have SIP laws, and Wyoming’s law applies only to drive-through sales, according to Dahl. Other states have some form of SIP law, although the specific provisions vary widely.

“Law enforcement largely ignores these laws,” Mosher notes. “One reason for this is they are usually so poorly drafted that there’s little likelihood of conviction.” A 2007 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded that states have limited resources to enforce the laws, and the provisions of the laws tend to make collection of proof overly burdensome. The report also found that cultural norms that tolerate excessive drinking or that support the idea that bars are appropriate places for patrons to become intoxicated present a challenge for effective SIP enforcement. Read More…

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